Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Oppression Still Thrives in Burma

Myanmar Frees Democracy Leader

Many of you may ask, Myanmar? For those who don’t know, it’s Burma. With focus on everything else in people’s lives, I’m sure there are some who have no idea of what has been happening in Burma for decades and don’t know that Burma is one of those places where “Oppression Still Thrives.”

The release of the Democracy Leader Suu Kyi has tremendous significance for Burma and yet only a blip on the media radar. Knowing a brief history of Burma can help understand the significance for Burma. Burma is located in Southeast Asia between Thailand, India and a part of China.  Burma has a long history, however fast forward to 1824, Britain began a campaign against Burma in its response to Burma’s attempt to invade India. It would take two wars and until 1886 for Britain to arguably gain complete rule over Burma. In 1937 Burma became a self-governing colony and gained independence from Britain in 1948. During World War II Burma was a major battle region in the war with the Japanese and even gained some fork lour fame with the making of the movie the “Bridge on the River Kwai.” 

In 1962 the democratic elected government was overthrown by a military coup and the country began its move toward socialism, which on another topic was just one of the hidden reasons for the concern about the expansion of communism and US involvement in Southeast Asia.  In 1989 the name of the country was changed to Myanmar, although not recognized by many including the United Kingdom, United States and the Burmese democracy movement. It would be almost 30 years until 1990 for Burma to conduct elections, which saw the National League for Democracy (NLD) and its leader Suu Kyi winning the election.  The ruling government refused to accept the election results and has continued to maintain control. 

Elections held last month in Burma have been contested and the ruling party continues to retain control. In what is considered by many a political move to distract from the election protest, this past Saturday, November 13th 2010, Myanmar released from house arrest the 1991 Novel Peace Prize winner and winner of the 1990 election Suu Kyi, who has spent 15 out of the past 21 years in captivity for her pro-democracy political activities.
The rest of the story concerns what has not been given much attention for over 40 years, which is the continued ethnic cleansing efforts carried out by the government and its Army. On the eastern edge of Burma there is an area known as the Karen State. The Karen people and other minority groups have been participating in an insurgency against the oppressive government for decades, resisting forced military slaved labor, confiscation of food and livestock, burning down of homes and villages and murder of civilians. Aid agencies estimates over two million refugees have fled to Thailand. 

All this may sound like one of those stories that no one gives much creditability to, however this story happens to be true. The irony is that there is so much information available and first hand and documented accounts of what have occurred in Burma and yet it is ignored.  As I stated there is so much information, and too much to mention in this posting. The Washington Post, NY Times and other news agencies had done numerous stories on the issue, and even accompanied relief teams of the Free Burma Rangers humanitarian organization (http://www.freeburmarangers.org/) on relief missions inside Burma. 

The Free Burma Rangers (FBR) is a multi-ethnic humanitarian service movement that was started about around 1997 by a friend and person I served with in the Army and other dedicated individuals. If you check their web site and PDF report you can see that they have an estimated 40 teams that provide a variety of humanitarian relief assistance and can always use support. This is an excellent and worthwhile organization that through peaceful and humanitarian methods helps the oppressed people of Burma.

The Free Burma Rangers (FBR) website: http://www.freeburmarangers.org/

Washington Post Story

NY Times Story

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