KWO is in Urgent Need of a Volunteer

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 : 

KWO Message: On-Going Use of Rape by Burma Army

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.”

KWO Message International Day to Stop Violence against Women


KWO Message International Day to Stop Violence against Women

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.

In solidarity,

Karen Women’s Organization


KWO Six Months Summary of Human Rights’ Violations in Karen State, January to June 2015 (English Version)

KWO and KWEG Joint Press Release:”The Burma Government Must Unconditionally and Immediately Release Naw Ohn Hla”

KWO Magazine Volume 3 Issue 4

KWO puts out a quarterly magazine (September to December) in Skaw Karen and Burmese which are distributed through out the 7 Karen refugee camps. Each magazine is passed between refugees being read by multiple people. It is just one way we seek to keep our community up to date and informed.

Afraid to Go Home: Recent Violent Conflict and Human Rights Abuses in Karen State (KRW Report)

The following report was prepared by Karen Rivers Watch (KRW), a coalition of six Karen organizations focused on the environment, women, youth, human rights and development issues. This report is based on field interviews with local villagers and leaders of Karen armed groups, as well as media coverage of the recent conflict. It describes events that led to recent armed conflict between the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) and the combined force of the Burmese Army (BA) and Border Guard Force (BGF) in Karen State. Next, the report gives a detailed account of clashes that occurred along the Salween River in Hpa-an and Hpapun (Mutraw) districts. It also describes the current situation faced by more than 2,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), many of whom are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. It relates accounts of forced labor, looting of homes, confiscation of property, and increased militarization. Finally, it discusses how the recent fighting appears to be part of a calculated military strategy by the BA/BGF to control territory in Karen State, possibly motivated by plans to construct the Hatgyi Dam on the Salween River.

The report is available here:

Community Opposes Military to Military Relations

Over many years, the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia have shown concern for human rights violations committed by the Burmese military, against ethnic minorities and others. But the current approach to military-to-military relations proposed by the US, UK and Australia will not prove to be beneficial to our mutual goals in ending human rights violations by the Burmese military. The letter below, signed by 133 ethnic nationalities civil society organizations, including KWO, outlines our concerns and preconditions to military engagement on behalf of the US, UK and Australia.

Burma: Joint Letter from Ethnic Nationalities Civil Society Organizations
Regarding Foreign Military Engagement with the Burmese Military

17 October 2013

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20005

The Right Honourable David Cameron MP
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
10 Downing Street
London SW1A 2AA

The Right Honourable Tony Abbott
Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Australia
PO Box 6022,
Parliament House
Canberra, ACT 2600

Dear President Obama, Prime Minister Cameron, and Prime Minister Abbott,

We, the undersigned 133 ethnic nationalities civil society organizations, are writing to express our concerns and reservations about your countries’ military engagement with the Burmese military. 

We appreciate the concern the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia have shown over the years for the human rights violations the Burmese military has committed against us, as well as your support for our pursuit of genuine democracy and national reconciliation. While your intentions may be genuine, we are deeply concerned that your current approach to military-to-military relations will neither prove beneficial to our mutual goals of ending the Burmese military’s perpetration of human rights violations against us, nor bring us closer to national reconciliation. We urge you not to pursue military-to-military engagement without taking into consideration our concerns.

Our organizations represent a diverse consortium of Burma’s ethnic minorities – which make up 40% of Burma’s population – who have endured decades of oppression and persecution under Burmese military rule. We have been forced to endure unimaginable atrocities at their hands. They have destroyed our villages, stolen our land, forced us to serve as their slave labor, to carry their equipment as they hunt down, torture, kill, and enslave our fellow ethnic brothers and sisters, and rape, gang-rape, and sexually assault our women and girls. There is not a family amongst us who has not lost a loved one or survived an atrocity committed by the Burmese military. We know the Burmese military intimately, like no one else could. We speak of the past, and we speak of the present. We do not want this to be our future. Now more than ever, the US, UK and Australia must honor their commitment to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities and protect the rights of the ethnic minorities in Burma.

Every military in the world should be trained on international human rights law, the Geneva
Conventions, and international humanitarian law, but it is not a lack of legal expertise that leads the  Burmese military to violate these international laws. It is important to understand the Burmese military does not commit human rights abuses accidentally, out of ignorance, because they do not know any better, or because they are not properly trained. Burmese military leadership orders their officers and soldiers to violate our human rights precisely because that is the objective they aim to achieve. The Burmese military wants to control our land and resources but more so they want to destroy our culture, break our spirit, break our desire for self-determination, demoralize us, and wear down our resistance until we break and agree to their rule.

Training junior officers and soldiers does not address the main problem – that soldiers are committing human rights abuses on the orders of their military and political leaders. Even if soldiers do receive human rights training, it will be impossible and even illegal for them to apply such training. Regardless, human rights violations will continue because the Burmese military command will continue to use proxy militias to carry out attacks and human rights abuses in thinly veiled attempts to conceal official involvement. Violations will also continue to be perpetuated by army involvement in policing and security provision efforts throughout Burma.

The Constitution of Burma is not democratic. It gives the military a dominant role in all levels of government. Nearly every repressive law introduced by past dictatorships remains in place, and new laws introduced since Thein Sein became President do not meet international human rights standards. Unless military engagement preconditions revision of the Constitution, even if soldiers are trained to defend the rule of law, they are in effect being trained to defend a constitution that does not protect human rights and to enforce repressive laws. Despite international perceptions that some of Burma’s political leaders are interested in reform, the Burmese military could not be characterized in such a light. The main reforms in which the military is interested are economic reforms, not democratic reforms. This prioritization greatly benefits the Burmese military leadership, whose large economic interests and holdings ensure they profit enormously from seizing our land and resources. Failure to remove the financial incentive the Burmese military receives from confiscating our land and resources undermines the United States, United Kingdom, and Australian governments’ intent to promote human rights and reform in Burma through foreign investment.

The Burmese military’s lack of commitment to democratic reform is evident in its continuing attacks against ethnic minorities and its failure to work honestly toward a genuine peace. The military broke a 17-year-old ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) in June 2011 and continues to ignore requests to stop the attacks, which have displaced 100,000 people. The military has violated multiple ceasefires that the government has signed with the Karen, Mon, and Shan, and continues to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. Despite statements expressing an interest in national reconciliation by peaceful means by President Thein Sein, Minister Aung Min, and others in the Burmese government, the Burmese military itself has expressed no indication that they are remotely interested in genuine reform and changing their violent practices.

The most obvious first step toward ending human rights abuses by the Burmese army would be for the Burmese government and the Burmese military to publicly acknowledge that human rights abuses have and continue to be committed by the Burmese army. Neither President Thein Sein, government ministers, nor military leaders have ever directly publicly admitted that human rights abuses were committed and continue to be committed at the hands of the military. It is extremely rare for any soldier to be held accountable in any way for any human rights abuses, and soldiers committing human rights abuses thus continue to act with impunity. The military’s failures to admit human rights abuses and hold perpetrators accountable demonstrate a serious lack of commitment to genuine reform and reconciliation.

If the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia are truly interested in helping us convince the Burmese military to stop committing human rights abuses against us, to agree to civilian control over the military, to divest their economic holdings, and to agree to amend the constitution to create a federal union of Burma, then we urge you to implement the following recommendations regarding military-to-military engagement.

The Burmese military wants a relationship with your militaries and the legitimacy and prestige you have given them with this relationship. We thus urge you to use this interest as leverage to attain concrete genuine reform.

Preconditions to Military Engagement, including human rights training:

  • Require the Burmese military to demonstrate a genuine interest in reform by stopping all attacks throughout the country in both ceasefire and non-ceasefire areas, withdrawing from conflict zones (i.e. halting construction and any reinforcement of army camps, and relocating military bases), sending soldiers back to barracks (i.e. halting the use of soldiers in economic development projects), adhering to the conditions of ceasefire agreements, and signing a code of conduct;
  • Require the Burmese government and the Burmese military to publicly acknowledge that human rights abuses have and continue to be committed by the Burmese military and commit to a zero tolerance policy;
  • Require the Burmese military to establish, with international support, an independent military police force that will investigate allegations of human rights abuses by soldiers, and the creation of an open judiciary process where such soldiers are given fair trials and sentences.

Preconditions to Military Engagement, besides human rights training:

  • Require the Burmese military to agree to amend the constitution to provide for civilian control of the military and national reconciliation, and to establish legitimate justice and accountability mechanisms;
  • Require the Burmese military cease all economic activity.

Specific criteria for Military Engagement:

  • Human rights training should include international human rights law, civilian control of the military, and justice and accountability mechanisms both through the chain-of-command and civilian authority;
  • No engagement, meetings, or trainings should take place outside of Burma;
  • US, UK, or Australian government civilian leadership should be present to reinforce the notion of civilian authority over the military;
  • Burmese government civilian leadership should be present to receive training on civilian oversight of the military;
  • Engagement with the Burmese military should be pursued in tandem with engagement with the ethnic armed groups;
  • Do not provide any trainings that enhance the Burmese military’s attack capabilities against ethnic nationalities.

Given the intransigence of the Burmese military toward reform, it is vital that all potential opportunities to end the suffering of our communities and bring about national reconciliation be utilized as best as possible. The Burmese military values engagement with the US, UK, and Australian militaries and the legitimacy it portrays. Allowing military engagement with the Burmese military without requiring the Burmese military to demonstrate an interest in reform and to adhere with our preconditions conveys an undeserved legitimacy on the Burmese military and will jeopardize our efforts to persuade the Burmese military to agree to national reconciliation. We urge you to heed our recommendations; do not waste this opportunity to secure our safety, our lives, and our future.

Organizations Names, Locations:
Anglican Karen Church, TN, USA
Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma/Thailand
Australian Karen Organization Inc., Australia
Back Pack Health Worker Team, Burma/Thailand
Bowling Green Karen Baptist Church, KY, USA
Bridging Rural Integrated Development and Grassroots Empowerment, Burma
Burma Community Rangers Organization, CO, USA
Burma Issues, Burma/Thailand
Burma Medical Association, Burma/Thailand
Burma Partnership, Burma/Thailand
Burmese Ethnic Based Community Organization Of Jacksonville, FL, USA
Burmese Rohingya Community In Australia, Australia
Burmese Rohingya Organization UK, UK
Burmese Women’s Union, Burma/Thailand
Campaign Action Coordination Team, Burma
Chin Human Rights Organization, Canada
Committee of Internally Displaced Karen People, Burma/Thailand
Country-side Karen Community of Georgia, GA, USA
Dallas-Fort Worth Kachin Baptist Church, TX, USA
Denmark Karen Organization, Denmark
Eastern Naga Development Organization, Burma
Ebenezer Karen Church, Dallas, TX, USA
Equality Myanmar/Human Rights Education Institute of Burma, Burma/Thailand
Ethnic Community Development Forum, Burma/Thailand
Euro Kachin Network, Europe
Finland Karen Culture Association, Finland
Generation Wave, Burma
Houston Kachin Community, TX, USA
Htoi Gender and Development Foundation, Burma
Human Rights Foundation of Monland, Burma/Thailand
Indiana Karen Baptist Fellowship, IN, USA
Joint Action Committee for Democratic Burma, Australia
Jury’s Orphanage, Thailand/Burma
Kachin Alliance, USA
Kachin Association Norway, Norway
Kachin Association of Australia, Australia
Kachin Baptist Church of Georgia, GA, USA
Kachin Canadian Association, Canada
Kachin Catholic Community, Austin, TX, USA
Kachin Catholic Community, TX, USA
Kachin Christian Association of America, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Kachin Christian Fellowship of Utah, UT, USA
Kachin Community of Denmark, Denmark
Kachin Community of Indiana, IN,USA
Kachin Community of Louisiana, LA, USA
Kachin Community of Mississippi, MS, USA
Kachin Community of Tennessee, TN, USA
Kachin Community Sweden, Sweden
Kachin Community the Netherlands, the Netherlands
Kachin Community UK, UK
Kachin Community, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Kachin Culture and Literature Association of San Francisco Bay Area, CA, USA
Kachin Development Foundation, FL, USA
Kachin Development Network Group, Burma/Thailand
Kachin Development Society of Nebraska, NE, USA
Kachin Literature and Culture Community, Singapore
Kachin National Organization (UK), UK
Kachin Peace Network, Burma
Kachin Women Association Thailand, Burma/Thailand
Karen American Organization of Connecticut, CT, USA
Karen Association of Iowa, IA, USA
Karen Community Association UK, UK
Karen Community Norway, Norway
Karen Community of Canada, Canada
Karen Community of Kansas City, KS, USA
Karen Community of Minnesota, MN, USA
Karen Community of New Bern, NC, USA
Karen Community Association of Wisconsin, WI
Karen Community Society of British Columbia, Canada
Karen Environmental and Social Action Network, Burma/Thailand
Karen Human Rights Group, Burma/Thailand
Karen National Community Netherlands, Netherlands
Karen Office of Relief and Development, Burma/Thailand
Karen Teacher Working Group, Burma/Thailand
Karen Women Empowerment Group, Burma
Karen Women’s Organization, Burma/Thailand
Karen Youth Organization, Burma/Thailand
Karenni Civil Societies Network, Burma/Thailand
Karenni Federation of Australia Inc., Australia
Karenni National Women’s Organization, Burma/Thailand
Karenni National Youth Organization, Burma/Thailand
Kaung Rwai Social Action Network, Burma
Kayan National Development Foundation, Burma/Thailand
Kayan Women’s Organization, Burma/Thailand
Kuki National Organization, Burma
Kuki Students Democratic Front, Burma
Kuki Women’s Human Rights Organization, Burma
Lahu National Development Organization, Burma/Thailand
Lahu Women’s Organization, Burma/Thailand
Louisville Karen Community, KY, USA
Methodist Karen Church, TN, USA
Michigan Kachin Community, MI, USA
Mid-Atlantic Kachin Christian Fellowship, PA, USA
Mon National Council (MNC), Australia
Mon Youth Progressive Organization, Burma/Thailand
Nationalities Youth Forum, Burma/Thailand
New Myanmar Foundation, Burma
New Zealand Kachin Community, New Zealand
New Zealand Karen Association, New Zealand
NINGTAWN, Kachin Education Support Group, Burma
Overseas Mon Women’s Organization, Burma/Thailand
Overseas Mon Coordinating Committee, USA
Palaung Women’s Organization, Burma/Thailand
Pan Kachin Development Society, Burma/Thailand
Pa-O National Liberation Organization, Burma/Thailand
Pa-O Women’s Union, Burma/Thailand
Pennsylvania/ New Jersey Kachin Fellowship, PA, USA
People’s Defense Force, Burma/Thailand
Phoenix Kachin Community, AZ, USA
Queensland Kachin Community, Australia
Rakhine Women’s Union, Burma/Bangladesh
Rockford Karen Baptist Church, IL, USA
Shan Herald Agency for News, Burma/Thailand
Shan Human Rights Foundation, Burma/Thailand
Shan Sapawa Environmental Organization, Burma/Thailand
Shan Women’s Action Network, Burma/Thailand
Shan Youth Power, Burma/Thailand
Students and Youth Congress of Burma, Burma/Thailand
Social and Health Development Association, Thailand
Ta’ang Students and Youth Organization, Burma/Thailand
Tavoyan Women’s Union, Burma/Thailand
Tavoyan Youth Organization, Burma/Thailand
Texas Kachin Baptist Church, TX, USA
United Ethnic Nationalities Association, CA, USA
United Kachin Association-Dallas, TX, USA
United Lahu Youth Organization, Burma/Thailand
Utica Karen Community, NY, USA
Washington Kachin Fellowship Committee, USA
Women and Child Rights Project, Burma/Thailand
Women Initiatives Network for Peace, Burma
Women Peace Network-Arakan, Burma
Women’s League of Burma, Burma/Thailand
Women’s Rights & Welfare Association of Burma, New Delhi, India

John Kerry, US Secretary of State
Chuck Hagel, US Secretary of Defense
William Hague MP, UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs
Philip Hammond MP, UK Secretary of State for Defence
Julie Bishop, Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs
David Johnston, Australian Minister for Defence