Update on Karen State

There are many headlines out of Burma that grab one’s attention. Aung San Suu Kyi’s recent travels to Thailand and Norway (to accept her Nobel Peace Prize!). There’s less encouraging news, with reports of ethnic violence in western Burma. Less noticable, though, are reports on life Karen State.

The report card here is a mixed bag. The Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) offers regular updates on what transpires in the area of the longest running civil war of our time (60 years).

On the positive side, KHRG reports of people receiving ID cards (which permit travel), of the Burma army building a school. There are some opportunities for expressing Karen culture without repression. Promising, but not enough.

The rest of reality is stark and disturbing. Consider events that occured in April 2012 in BuTho township of Karen State. The Burma army is using the cease fire to reinforce troops with more men and supplies. Landmines are routinely being placed throughout the area, denying villagers access to farm land. In addition, powerful groups/enterprises supported by the Regime are confiscating land for building projects. Many villagers are forced to work for the Burma army without any compensation. The work often includes planting and tending rice fields to feed the army — activities that consume time needed for these villagers to plant their own rice fields for their families.

Even more concerning is that random killings continue. In March, 4 men crossed an army road and were shot by Burma soldiers. One died on the spot and another was gravely wounded. When villagers came to retrieve the dead man’s body, soldiers waited for them, so the villagers left. They returned a week later and the soldiers had abandoned the body. Sadly, the soldiers had cut off the dead man’s legs for some inhumane and disgusting reason.

Arbitrary detentions of men and women continue. In the Kawkareik Township, 10 men were detained and 4 were beaten during the night due to their suspected support to the KNLA.

Meanwhile, to the north in Kachin State, the regime continues its weekly assualt on villages in order to sieze land and resources.

For those companies and government officials here in our country — do these activities reflect a humane and responsible government or a barbaric regime? Do you wish to be associated with them?

Karen News

The Karen News website is a great source of information to learn more about what is actually happening in Burma.

This article  Karen People’s Forum demands all mega development projects be stopped particularly caught my attention because of my fears that the changes in Burma will lead to even worse exploitation of the ethnic minorities.

The Junta has signed mining agreements with foreign (Thai and Chinese) companies without including the people whose land and resources are to be exploited in the decision making process.

I am so glad that the Karen are standing up for their rights and want everyone to call out to their elected representatives here in the US to not lift sanctions in Burma until these issues have been resolved.

The US House of Representatives have not renewed sanctions on Burma but there is still time.  The US Campaign for Burma has on their website links to send an email to your representatives asking them to renew sanctions.    BHM will also distribute form letters and contact information at our upcoming film screening of Crossing Midnight on Tuesday, June 19th as well as at the Run for Refugees on June 23rd.