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Serious questions linger over Myanmar’s about tur

HONG KONG (SE): While the government in Naypyidaw parades its democracy icon, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, before the world media in an attempt to show that the repressive state of the Union of Myanmar is opening up to democracy and is on the road to becoming a law abiding citizen, a peep at the flip side of the coin reveals a totally different reality.

In the northern state of Kachin, government military forces are waging a bitter war against the Kachin Independent Army (KIA) and consequently its own people, which local Kachins believe is an attempt to destroy their identity as a people, along with their culture, religion and way of life.

“It is a process begun over 100 years ago by the Burmese majority,” a local resident of the Kachin state told the Sunday Examiner.

“We have always been a despised people and they have always wanted our land and our resources for themselves,” he continued.

However, he said that upon receiving the results of a fact-finding mission carried out by the Partners Relief and Development, a non-government organisation primarily supported by religious organisations in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the European Union, he has never been as proud to be a Kachin as he is today.

“I almost cried and more, thanks to God, for creating me a Kachin, while I was reading this report. How oppressive the stupid military junta is to the Kachin. But we Kachin are still alive and becoming more strong in faith through oppression under the military junta. Let’s be alert and pray for the victims.”

However, the oppression goes on irrespective of who gets hurt. Among the over 200 people interviewed, the 57-page report documents the story of a Kachin nurse and a Burmese soldier.

“I had been hiding in the jungle, but went back to the village (Nam Lim Pa)” (12 October 2011), the nurse told the fact-finding commission, “because I heard the Burmese soldiers had left.”

She explained, “I had set up a clinic in the jungle with another nurse from the United Nations Development Programme clinic and we needed more medicine. When I arrived at the clinic, I saw the furniture was all a mess outside on the grass. I also saw they had taken a condom from the clinic and hung it on a tree just outside.”

The nurse continues her story saying, “When I went inside, I saw most of our medical supplies had been stolen and some were smashed on the ground. The soldiers left a mess everywhere, leftover food, an old jacket, an empty whiskey bottle and also blood on the mattress. I also found my personal dairy had been opened and a letter written inside it by a Burmese soldier, who had slept in the clinic.”

Although she said that it became difficult to treat people because of the loss of supplies, the letter in her dairy from one of the soldiers reveals another type of suffering she had not expected.

“To my sister,” it is addressed. “I am pleased that you forgive me for writing in your book, because I am writing without permission, so please forgive me. I see my sister wants to be an educated person and so I wish you can receive more education. Sometimes I want to be your close friend and speak with you.”

Writing in Burmese, the young soldier continues, “I am a Myanmar citizen, so we are sister and brother. When there is peace, can I speak with you? Can you pray to your God for peace? Which village is my sister from? We only brought a little of medicine so I will take some medicine with me. I wish your life to be safe from these bad things so that bad things do not happen to you. I am your close friend, your brother.”

The fact-finding mission documented almost 60 atrocities committed by the Burmese military in and around the predominately Catholic village of Nam Lim Pa, on or about October 12, at a time which it notes there were no KIA soldiers in the area and no hostile activity.

“At least 297 households, a township office, a United Nations Development Programme clinic and a Catholic church were looted and vandalised by Burma Army Battalions 74 and 276,” the report notes.

“At least one house was destroyed by fire. At least seven cows, one buffalo and one chicken were killed. At least two cows, two pigs, one buffalo and one elephant were injured,” it continues, noting that this is sufficient damage to destroy the livelihood of the people.

The report notes that people were randomly shot, tortured, detained with excessive force without signs of resistance, robbed and their homes destroyed. Many were forced to flee and seek shelter in the jungle, where staying dry and gathering some food each day are the two big challenges they face.

Although Partners and Relief Development describe the visit of the secretary of state from the United States of America, Hillary Clinton, to the country as a sign of hope, its director, Steve Gumaer, says, “While Burma’s so called civilian leaders relax tyrannical rule in the plains, their military continues to rape, kill and abuse the very people whose wishes they claim to represent.”

He notes that a resolution condemning the ongoing human rights violations in Myanmar was passed overwhelmingly in the United Nations General Assembly on November 22, which contrasts with the statements made by some world leaders that the country has made remarkable signs of progress.

Gumaer concludes by saying, “This report is presented as part of the body of evidence that Burma should be pressured to make a substantial, not shallow steps towards reform and that not doing so makes a farce of the diplomatic process currently in the news.”

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