Monday, June 29, 2009

New Military Offensive Creates More Misery for Burma’s Karen People

E-mail Print PDF
Download - Listen
We go now to the Thai Burma border, where thousands of Burmese, ethnic Karen people have fled to recent weeks, following an escalation of fighting between Karen rebels the Burmese army and their former allies the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army.

Rebels claim that this latest offensive is aimed at wiping out any opposition ahead of the so-called multi-party elections scheduled for 2010.

About 4,000 refugees, mostly women and children have arrived since the offensive began in the first week of June.

They have brought little with them except stories of trauma and suffering and fears for those left behind, which they shared with our reporter Kong Janoi.
It is the wet season in Mae On Son, a terrible time to be living in temporary shelters.

A sick child is crying. A thin plastic sheet is the only protection for this medical clinic. There is only one health work to care for the sick. Nan Hti arrived recently after the fight reached her village.

“After we heard gun fire, we all ran from our village, we could not take anything with us. I was struggling to run because I had five children with me. One child from our group died on the way while because of malaria.”

The refugees are taking shelter in a new camp about one hundred kilometers north of Mae Sot, a border town where around 100 hundred thousand other Karen refugees have settled.

It’s a thirty-minute hike up the mountain to reach the new camp.

Gun-fire from clashes between Burmese troops and Karen rebels can be heard in the distance.

The Burmese troops began this latest offensive against the Karen National Union rebels in early June after the rebel’s resisted attempts by the Junta, who is allied with the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) to establish a border force.

The rebels earlier rejected a ceasefire offer from the junta and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army, which demanded that the groups unite under one banner to establish a ‘Border Guard’ force.

The rebels say they would lose their army if they accepted the junta’s offer. They believe that their intention is to wipe out all opposition ahead of the promised multi-party elections scheduled for 2010.

Naw Paw Gay from the Karen Information Center says the Burmese troops and DKBA want to rid the area of Karen rebels troops in order to make border guard troop after coming election.

“This offensive against the Karen rebels KNU is amid to clear KNU from this area. As the junta constitution, in coming 2010 election, there were no aim groups in Burma so the groups can co-operate with junta as border guard otherwise the Burmese troops will fight them to end of their enemies. DKBA accepted junta policy as border guard so they have been collaborating with Burmese troop an offensive KNU."

To help there cause the Karen Information Center is distributing a video recording of fighting on the frontline.

Mahn Nyien Maung a Central committee member of the rebel group says they will fight until the end. He is wants all the people of Burma to rise up against military rule.

"As everybody knows the military government in Burma has done nothing to promote the transition to democracy and they offer no ethnic rights. They even kill our respected, innocent monks so they definitely don’t care about the people. All ethnic groups and civilians should unite. We should not be divided even though our enemy uses game amongst us and we should fight together to end military brutal rule and for democracy and ethnic rights in Burma.”

The KNU has been fighting for greater autonomy from Myanmar's central government for more than 60 years.

In a separate statement the Karen Women Organization (KWO) said two young Karen women were raped and murdered last week by Burmese soldiers.

Burmese soldiers captured the two women, aged 17 and 18, after their husbands fled into the jungle. One of them was pregnant whilst the other was a mother of a six-month old baby.

Karen Women’s Organisation secretary Dah Eh Kler says ASEAN countries should do more to help her people.

“We appeal to the international communities to put pressure on the junta over this latest offensive. Some countries may say it is a domestic problem but it is spreading to all our neighbor countries. Burma is an ASEAN member and ASEAN has a responsibility concerning human right abuses and escalating wars.”

The junta is reported to have assembled more troops in the region in recent days. The rebels are reported to have withdrawn from some strongholds after suffering heavy causalities.

Meanwhile more and more people are arriving at Mae On Son camp. More than 4,000 have come so far.

This is in addition to the 100,000 sheltering in camps to the south and nearly half a million, according to aid agencies, who are displaced inside eastern Burma.

Thai authorities and other aid agencies are struggling to provide essential aid.

Nan Hti doesn't know what to do next.

“We are just sitting here and thinking. If there is peace in my village I will go back. We love our home and we want to stay there. We left our farms and struggles there. We cannot run from the war anymore. It is too hard. We just want peace to last forever.”

No comments: