News

Burma's Minorities Caution Against Embracing Military Government

General Mutu Saipo (C) from the Karen National Union talks with a member of the Burma government negotiation team during a welcome dinner ceremony at Sedona hotel in Rangoon, Burma, April 5, 2012.
General Mutu Saipo (C) from the Karen National Union talks with a member of the Burma government negotiation team during a welcome dinner ceremony at Sedona hotel in Rangoon, Burma, April 5, 2012.
Henry Ridgwell

As the United States prepares to relax sanctions on Burma in the wake of parliamentary by-elections, ethnic minorities say the military-led government continues to commit atrocities in the east of the country. Activists from Kachin and Karen minorities are urging Western countries to be more cautious in their moves to end Burma's isolation.

Kachin state in eastern Burma is home to a people still at war with the military government. The fighting has forced 60,000 people into refugee camps. Hton Wun, a 33-year-old mother of two, is among them.

"We were really afraid of soldiers coming inside the village," she said. "We couldn’t sleep at night, we were afraid of what would happen when we were asleep."

Minorities stress human rights issues

Burma’s ethnic minorities have long accused the government of repression and brutality. The government stays largely silent on the allegations of human rights abuses, but it is negotiating a ceasefire with the Kachin.

The Karen, another minority in the south and east, signed a cease-fire with the government in January after six decades of fighting. Zoya Phan grew up in refugee camps in the midst of the conflict. Her father was general secretary of the Karen National Union; he was assassinated in Thailand in 2008. Her mother was a fighter in the Karen armed wing. She now lives in London under political asylum.

"We were attacked with air bombs and airstrikes. Each time the bombs dropped on the ground, the ground would shake and we were just so horrified," said Phan.

Phan now works at the Burma Campaign UK, raising awareness of the plight of the country’s ethnic minorities.

"In Kachin state, the Burmese army has broken three cease-fire agreements in the past years. And the army continues attacking civilians.  Women are being raped and men are also used as forced labor," she said.

Intent on spreading reforms

The jungles of eastern Burma are a long way from the street celebrations that have swept through Rangoon this week following the parliamentary by-elections. Official results show Aung Sung Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party took 43 of 45 seats. The apparent pace of change under current President Thein Sein has this week prompted the United States to ease financial and travel sanctions against the government.

"We are prepared to take steps towards, first, seeking agreement for a fully accredited ambassador in Rangoon in the coming days," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Activist Zoya Phan said the U.S. and its allies should be more cautious.

"It is very important for the West to maintain most of the key sanctions to encourage more positive reforms in Burma. At the moment, if the West lifted all key sanctions, it would be a mistake," she said.

Rapid changes are sweeping through parts of Burma; for the first time, citizens could get access to credit cards. Beyond the big cities, Burma’s minorities say they are yet to see the benefits of the West’s re-engagement with the military rulers.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs