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.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.