From Karen Women’s Organization and Karen News
The IDPs return home with dignity and safety? “We do not dare to go back because of the landmines that are planted in the fields where we make our living. If we go back, we could lose our limbs at any moment.” Currently, the Burma Army’s operations in Mutraw District violates the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and has recently displaced more than 2,000 villagers from their homes. These displaced villagers, feel unsafe, have received threats, concerns and repression to return to their abandoned villages. They feel there is no guarantee for their safety and security and many political problems are unresolved. The displaced Karen people in Ei Tu Hta IDP camp are now facing a massive humanitarian crisis.
Please watch this video produced by KWO and Karen News about the current crisis
In his honor, we want to share his life story and achievements with our friends and colleagues all over the world. That we may learn from him and his desire to see real peace in our land.
We feel enormous gratitude to him for his work as a defender of Human Rights and Indigenous Rights, and as a protector of the environment and the Karen way of life.
Saw O Moo, you are not with us anymore but your work will be in our hearts forever. You will be always remembered as a Karen indigenous rights defender and we offer hope that your soul may rest in peace. We make a promise to you to carry on your work in defense of our lands, our identity, and our freedom.
On March 4th, the Burma Army began the largest and most coordinated deployment of troops into Karen State’s Mutraw (Hpapun) district since 2008, breaching the terms of the NCA and provoking multiple clashes with the Karen National Liberation Army’s (KNLA) 5th Brigade. Burma Army soldiers have indiscriminately targeted civilians while more than 2,400 villagers have been forced to flee their land and homes. The majority of those displaced by the Burma Army’s current operations had only recently returned to rebuild their villages, farms, and livelihoods following decades attacks by the Burma Army and displacement in the area.
The KNU and Burma Army are both signatories to the 2015 NCA, which prohibits the expansion of military infrastructure and troop reinforcements in ceasefire areas. However, since March 4th, at least eight Burma Army battalions have entered Luthaw, without the required prior agreement from the KNLA, and begun constructing a military operations road to connect their military bases. If the road is built, Indigenous Karen villagers may be permanently displaced from their homes and ancestral village territories.
KWO is excited to announce the formation of a new a new “Karen Grassroots Women’s Network” which will strengthen the voice of Karen women in advocacy efforts. KWO gathered women from a wide variety of Karen civil society organisations for the third Karen Women’s Seminar at the end of March 2018.
The women discussed issues for two days and decided to form the new Grassroots Women’s Network. At the conclusion of the seminar the attendees jointly endorsed the following resolutions:
- We call on the Burma Army to stop their military operations in all ethnic areas.
- We want the 2008 constitution to be abolished and call on the Burma Government to begin a process whereby a genuine federal constitution can be drawn up.
- We also call on all stakeholders to stop mega development projects in all ethnic areas until there is genuine peace and a political settlement.
- There must be no forced repatriation of refugees.
- We also call on the international community and donors to continue to support
humanitarian aid to refugees and IDPs according to international standards until peace is restored in the country
KWO is in urgent need of a volunteer who can come and work with us for a minimum of 6 months. Ideally, we would love a volunteer who is fluent in both the Karen language, as well as the English language. However, we are also happy if we can find a volunteer to work with us who is fluent in English and has good writing skills. We are looking for a volunteer who is between the age of 25 to 50.
It would be best if a volunteer has some experience in working in community or in humanitarian work. We are also looking for self-confidence and good physical health with some background knowledge of Burma, the Thai Burma border and our women’s movement. The volunteer would be expected to work 5 days a week and would be mostly based in our Mae Sariang office. KWO can provide shared accommodation in the KWO staff house, 3 meals a day and a bicycle for getting around the small town of Mae Sariang.
The work would mostly involve assisting with the editing of funding proposals and reports, occasionally summarizing important news or reports for the women in our organization to be able to understand them and assisting staff in writing emails. If the volunteer had some skills that were useful for our staff, we may also ask them to share these.
For Karen women living overseas (especially), this would be a great opportunity to get some hands on work experience in a development setting, as well as a wonderful opportunity to understand the current situation on the border and in Burma. This kind of experience is highly regarded by colleges as well as by employers.
Please contact us at : email@example.com
16 Days of Activism to Stop Violence Against Women
KWO Message: On-going Sexual Violence by Burma Army
During this current 16 Day Campaign to increase awareness about Violence Against Women, KWO feels obligated to raise our voices about the on-going use of rape and other forms of violence against women by the Burma Army.
In Burmese military operations in Arakan State over the past months, there have been consistent reports received of widespread, systematic sexual violence against Rohingya women by Burma Army troops. In a little over one month, 192 reports have been received of incidents of rape committed by Burma military. We are deeply pained by these reports, which revive memories of similar horrors endured for decades by women in our communities at the hands of the Burma Army. Other reports continue to emerge of the widespread use of torture, unlawful killings, and disappearances suffered by the Rohingya people at the hands of the Burma Army soldiers. Cases of 428 deaths, and 192 disappearances of Rohingya people have been documented. Our hearts go out to the Rohingya women and their families at this time.
We are further saddened by the NLD government’s denial of these reports of sexual and physical violence by Burma Army troops. We expected the Army to deny the reports, as they always have, but we did not expect the NLD to do the same. We had higher hopes also from Nobel Peace Laureate, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. In 2011 she said “Rape is used in my country as a weapon against those who only want to assert their basic human rights, especially in the areas of the ethnic nationalities. Rape is rife. It is used as a weapon by the armed forces to intimidate the ethnic nationalities and to divide our country.” So we had such hope that sexual violence by Burmese soldiers would not be allowed to happen if DASSK was in power, or if it did happen, she would quickly take action, or speak out against it. We see now that these were empty political words.
In June 2014, Burma signed the “Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict”. There was a lot of media publicity, and the Burma government smiled with Hollywood movie stars in London under the limelight of world attention. We wonder when will be the right time for Burma to act on their promises. There are 12 commitments in that Declaration they signed and none of them have been honoured as yet. Burmese soldiers continue to rape with impunity. How are signatories to the Declaration held to account?
From 2005 to 2016, eleven women’s organization from Burma, published at least 33 separate reports on the violence against women perpetrated by the soldiers of the Burma Army. All of this evidence has been denied by the Burma Army and Burma governments. Denial, then impunity, is the pattern of behavior we have observed for generations. Is it possible all these women are lying? Or could it be true that soldiers of the Burma Army are aggressive and abuse their power and are not held to account?
Burma Army soldiers are well-trained and well-equipped. They have jet fighters bombing villages in Kachin State; there are many officers; a chain of command; penalties for disobeying orders, like most armies in the world. For Burma Army soldiers to rape with impunity, on this scale and for this length of time, it requires the collusion of the whole national military hierarchy. When soldiers rape and nothing is done, their commanders are also guilty. When nothing is done by commanders, no order disseminated that rape will not be tolerated, the whole army and the national government are all guilty.
In honour of the courage of women in Myanmar, we ask Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD government today, to make a simple nation-wide announcement: “Sexual violence is prohibited to members of the Mynamar Army. Any Myanmar soldier found to have committed this crime, and his commanding officers, will be severely punished.”
Today is the special day, recognized in the world, to bring attention to efforts to stop violence against women. The 25th of November is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and is also the opening day for the annual Campaign that will last for 16 days and which highlights community-based activism to stop violence against women all over the world. On this special day KWO welcomes and values everyone who wants to co-operate, and unite with us in their hearts, and who will take part in events and activities in the coming days.
KWO would like to remind all people that this is not a day to express happiness or to feel pleased to be at an opening event. The reason we should not be happy is because today reminds all of us that violence is still used against women. It has not stopped yet; women are still being raped, still being beaten; children are still being raped, still being hurt; and victims of violence still do not get justice. We all have to take on the responsibility to stop violence against women and children in our own corner of the world, and make sure that perpetrators are found and punished and not allowed to walk free. All of us need to show we will not accept violence in our community.
The theme for the Campaign that KWO has chosen this year is “Strengthen law and promote justice for the protection of women and children”. From KWO’s experience in providing services to women and children who have suffered physical or sexual violence, we see that the law is not enforced effectively, so that the victims are not receiving justice. We believe that strengthening the law and then enforcing that law will be essential to break down and prevent violence used against women and children.
Currently, we say that we need national peace and justice in our country. However, in our own smaller communities, if violence continues and there is no rule of law then we cannot say that we have the peace that we dream of having.
On this day, the Karen Women’s Organization would like to call upon our community, especially the men, to take responsibility to stop violence. If you see anyone using violence with women or with children, please find the best way to stop it and then make sure that action is taken with the perpetrators in accordance with the facts and with the law.
We know that in the community many men do not accept the use of violence. And themselves, they are not violent. However there are some men who do use violence, and do not understand their own power and they misuse it. Therefore it is important for male leaders, including young people in the community, to help to protect women and to protect children, by working to strengthen laws and to promote justice. Men of all ages, should help other men by encouraging them to change, explaining to them, not to use violence, and especially not on women and children. Explain to them that this is a crime and if anyone commits it, action can be taken against them.
KWO believes that in our community, everyone including men, do not want to see violence used on mothers, children, wives, aunts and sisters. Therefore we can stand with a united heart to prevent and respond to violence against women.
We encourage everyone to take responsibility in our own corners to let the violence stop. Following the law and promote justice in the community. We have to work hand in hand in our community to show that we do not accept violence in any form, that we promote justice for all, and that the law is strong enough to genuinely offer protection to women and to children.
Karen Women’s Organization
As we reported earlier a KWO team went to distribute the emergency supplies to recently displaced Karen families in two Karen Villages. Our team also bought some refreshment for children to help make them happier in this difficult situation. These are pictures from the visit.