Take a look at what’s going on in Burma today. Check out this first hand report that summarizes the last year of attacks by the Burma military regime against the various ethnic people of Burma.
Then check out http://www.hrweb.org/legal/genocide.html for Articles 1 – 4 of the UN Convention on Genocide and see what it says. OK, now make the call – is it or isn’t it?
As for me, I think the details and facts in this report clearly meet the standard of genocide in those areas that have been attacked by the Burma military regime in the past. It may not be the kind of genocide that has occurred elsewhere in the history of the world, but it is still wrong, deserving of international attention and immediate demands to stop! The pictures don’t lie.
To others, the issue of genocide in Burma is questionable and/or debatable, but, in my opinion, it is worthy of some serious consideration and further diligence by one or more outside entities. FBR can not be the party calling what the Burma army and dictators are doing as genocide -- there is only downside in that for everyone involved. So, that subject is necessarily one of journalistic and/or legal debate – hopefully on an international or global scale.
I do think that if there were an independent determination that what is happening in Burma is genocide, then it would force the UN and the US & the International community to step in and pursue a much more proactive strategy.
The real story here, though, is one about "Doing what is right for human beings, in general, and human dignity, in Burma." Closely followed by, “Doing what is honorable and well-deserved by a group of people who were US and British loyal allies at a time of darkness when our own country was under attack during World War II." It is simply unacceptable that we have forgotten them and stood by for too long and done too little to help them. I'll share with you three aspects of the kind of "personal interest stories" that long to be told -- and there are thousands more like these. Who will tell it? If nobody else more qualified and journalistically respected will do it, then perhaps I will write it and maybe others can help draw attention to it.
Yesterday, we met with an 88 year old woman who is a wife, grandmother and great-grandmother. Her husband, who is still living and who we met briefly, fought in the WWII resistance and guerrilla effort against the Japanese and Burmese. Their son, who we also met with for about an hour, is currently carrying on that tradition within the Karen National Union. His district, in the Northern Karen state, is currently under attack and has had 8,000-10,000 more people newly displaced and many civilians killed and wounded, by the attacks of the Burma Army that have been ongoing for the last year.
In an emotional personal statement, during which this 88 year-old woman had to stop several times because she was choked by tears and raw emotion -- born from decades of incredible struggle and hardship, mixed with thanks to God that they are yet still alive --she thanked FBR, in particular, the rest of us there and those (America included) in general who stand for and pray for the dignity and freedom of the Karen people and restoration of ethnic/human rights for all the oppressed people of Burma. Her exact words (in perfect, unaccented English) were, “God bless you for what you do and for remembering us, because we depend on you to tell our story … and for liberty and freedom!” Then she sang us a hymn of praise, in a voice still clear and beautiful -- standing there straining against the years to keep erect, and showing great pride and dignity to her audience (us), like she was singing before someone famous and with the power to save them, rather than just us -- regular people and Americans who can, at best, pray for them and send them supplies and other aid to help them survive and subsist. Then I realized, she is not singing for us -- she is singing to God, who is the one who can save them and we are but witnesses to her strength of faith. Amazing!
Then, her son and I had a discussion. He is in his sixties and has been fighting for freedom from oppression for 46 years -- four less than I have lived. I had asked him if he was an obstacle to peace, as I had read in a self-justifying, rationalization for inaction written by a high level person at the UN (I was not supposed to see or have this confidential, internal report), or was this conflict really wider spread and aimed at all the ethnic groups of Burma. He said, "I am a Christian and want peace and equality for my people, and all the ethnics of Burma, with the SPDC (Burma Army Regime), but they do not want that. They say that they do, but they do not -- they only want to kill us and drive us out of our country into Thailand. I have worked for 46 years. I have tried this and have tried that, but always it is the same. The SPDC lies and they do not want peace. But, we must stay and resist, or soon we will all be gone." It is amazing that they still have hope after this long, as well as the will to stay in their homelands (where they have been for many centuries) and continue to resist the oppression and hardships that are rained on them, at will, by the regime. They are overwhelmed, but they still manage to find ways to take care of their people and to lead them toward a future they still believe is coming.
Finally, I met with the overall military commander of the Karen resistance, who is 74 years old and still going strong. He is very intelligent and articulate and well informed on world events, especially as they pertain to the places where US foreign policy is and isn’t being leveraged. He spoke to me about Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea and Darfur and how this understandably places a foreign policy burden on our government and, sadly, disappointingly, distracts the US from helping the people of Burma. This very week, a hand grenade, intended to either kill or intimidate him, was thrown at his home, where his office is also located. This past summer, my family and I visited him at this very place and yesterday, he showed me the shrapnel damages to his wall, door, windows and roof from the explosion -- one that wounded only his dog, due to the grace of God’s protection. This man has been standing for human rights for, and dignity of, the ethnic people of Burma since he was 16 years old -- that's 58 years; since the very beginning. Each time I see him, he seems a little more worn out and has a little less energy, until he sees my friend, who helps him through FBR, then he becomes instantly rejuvenated and energetic, like it will somehow all work out. So, I asked him, what will it take to bring freedom and peace and his only comment was, "If the United States is bold enough to help us, then things will change." Then, he gave me a thin, sad smile – but one that still reflected his determination to press on, as he has done for his entire adult life. That pretty much says it all.
There are many other issues in Burma that demand intervention (see 10 reasons to be involved in Burma) from the FBR website link above. I think that one compelling storyline is that this conflict ranks above all others as “the longest running armed conflict on the globe.” There are plenty of things that we can do as individuals, as a government and as an international community that can help provide badly needed relief and to put pressure on the regime for a just, long term solution – the kind that the ethnic people of Burma were promised so long ago.
(1) Do some research and then write your congressman, demanding US help and intervention, (2) Make a tax deductible financial donation -- $50 keeps a family of five alive in the jungle for a month – to World Aid, Inc a Seattle based 501 c (3) dedicated to helping the displaced ethnic people of Burma and mail it to 2442 NW Market Street, PMB #434 Seattle, WA 98017, (3) check and see if your company has a matching gift program and if so, ask them to match your gift and (4) tell ten (10) more people about this dire situation and ask them to pray about it and help.
We can do it now, before it is too late and no longer matters! But, the real question is, "Are we bold enough, as individuals and as a country, to do something about it?"
By: George M. Tronsrue III
Written March 27th, 2007 from Tapei International Airport