Positive Changes and Ongoing Oppression: Myanmar Update

Rohingya children by wall (Nov 2014)

Photo: Partners Relief & Development

Today’s post comes from Free Burma Rangers, an innovative organization working to free the oppressed and to stand for human dignity, justice and reconciliation in Burma (Myanmar). Free Burma Rangers (FBR) sends teams into some of the most dangerous places in Burma to conduct relief, advocacy, leadership development, and unity missions among the people of Burma. To learn more about Free Burma Rangers, visit their website by clicking here.

This report provides an on-the-ground Myanmar update, examining current progress and challenges. Understanding the dynamics of the country is essential to addressing and serving those most in need, including the Rohingya people. We thank Free Burma Rangers for allowing us to re-post this update to help us understand this complex country.

“The situation in Burma is changing, in some cases for the better and in others for the worse. In the midst of this FBR continues its mission of giving help, hope and love and putting a light on the situation. In areas where there have been improvements, such as parts of Karen State, some of our teams are able to operate freely and have established some understanding with local Burma Army units that allow them to provide humanitarian assistance without interference.

FBR teams are also working at being part of a convergence and standardization of health care provision with the hope that if positive change comes to Burma, then there will be a unified and integrated approach to health care for all. We are planning for and working towards a coordinated and united effort with all concerned to provide health care and humanitarian assistance in Burma. We have offered to work with some in the leadership in the Burma Government and hope to further develop positive relationships.

Wherever we can, we try to work openly and with the understanding of the Burma Army and government. Our hope is that one day there can be reconciliation in Burma and that we can all work together for the good of all.

Unfortunately, in areas where the Burma Army is conducting offensives such as Kachin State and Northern Shan State, the FBR teams must avoid the Burma army as they provide relief to those in need. Last year two of our relief workers were killed by the Burma Army in Kachin State and this year in May one of our Kachin team leaders was shot as he filmed a Burma Army attack. Earlier this year two Kachin teachers were raped, tortured and then murdered by Burma Army troops and there has been no justice or accountability. Burma is in the midst of change and we want to report to you what is happening, both good and bad. We are grateful for those who have brought greater freedoms to Burma. We also want to stand with those who have not yet experienced those freedoms and are still under attack. Here is summary of the situation as we see it now in August 2015.

Good news and improvement in some areas:

  1. Aung San Suu Kyi holds a position in parliament, and she and others continue to work for more freedom, reforms and justice in Burma.
  2. Many political prisoners have been released and there is greater political freedom.
  3. Censorship and travel restrictions have been eased.
  4. Ceasefire negotiations are ongoing with many of the ethnic groups, and there is an overall reduction in fighting and displacement. Ethnic Armed Groups are continuing to negotiate with the government regarding political dialogue, credible monitoring mechanisms, and the need to consolidate existing ceasefires.
  5. Burma Army leaders have signed an agreement to end forced labor and there has been a reduction in some areas.
  6. The FBR had the opportunity to meet a senior Burma government leader, U Aung Min, in 2012, and our relationship of mutual respect and appreciation continues. We hope that we will be able to be closer to others in government as well.

New attacks and ongoing oppression:

  1. In spite of and during ceasefire talks, the Burma Army attacks, murders, rapes and displacement of the Kachin continue with over 100,000 Kachin people displaced since 2011. Attacks continue in this area as of August 2015.
  2. In northern Shan State, fighting and displacement continue against the Shan, Ta’ang, Kachin and Kokang people.
  3. In Karen State the Burma Army is using the ceasefires to supply their camps beyond the normal supply rate. There are still incidents of extra judicial killings including the killing of one of our team members last year.
  4. The constitution has not been changed and the military retains control of power.
  5. In Arakan State, over 140,000 people have been displaced by inter-ethnic violence between the Rohingya and Arakan. This has been partially fueled by repressive Burma government policies and actions. Rohingya refugees suffer brutal living conditions and live in constant fear of attack. Please see Fortify Rights Report on the Rohingya.
  6. Humanitarian access is still blocked for IDPs in parts of Karen, Karenni, Shan, Arakan and Kachin states.
  7. There has been no apology, expression of remorse or establishment of a truth and reconciliation process to address Burma Army attacks, oppression, human rights violations, war crimes and displacement.
  8. Karen and Karenni refugees continue to live restricted lives with a decrease in food supplies.
  9. Land confiscation and land rights abuses have become worse due to government and business encroachment.
  10. Burma Army involvement in the narcotics trade continues with the use of proxy armies.

We see two things continuing to happen at once: positive changes and ongoing oppression. The Free Burma Rangers will continue giving help, hope and love to those under attack, to get the news out and to stand with the oppressed.”

To read the full report, click here.