The Burma Humanitarian Mission supports community based health-care and education projects that improve lives of the Burmese people. This is an article about religious freedom in Burma. Read more about the Burma Humanitarian Mission here.
The most recent list of U.S. companies seeking access to Burma for development and business is stunning: Chevron, General Motors, Target Corp., ConocoPhillips, Caterpillar, General Electric International, Honeywell and eBay. These are just a few of the 50 plus U.S. corporations meeting with Burma regime officials over the next two weeks as they start to move into Burma.
Such a line-up reinforces an incongruous image of Western societies -- the icons of human rights and liberties -- as they are now colluding with the Burma regime, which continues to abuse and kill ethnic minorities living within Burma.
In Karen State, where a cease-fire has been in the works for the past year, the Burma army is reinforcing its forces. They have set up additional checkpoints along key roads, extorting ‘taxes’ on Karen as they transit.
The real harsh measures, though, were captured by a Burma Humanitarian Mission supported backpack medic. He recently shared that “Even though there’s a ceasefire in our area, the Burma army is still sending more soldiers, food, weapons and supplies and are building more camps. They are confiscating land from villagers while providing little to no compensation.”
Thus what U.S. companies see as an ‘opportunity’ is a catastrophe for many Karen villagers who have nothing but their land.
Impoverished, cut off from their land, the Karen continue to struggle against disease, illness, and malaria. Add malnutrition and these simple conditions are a lethal concoction to infants, children and their mothers.
To support the Karen, Burma Humanitarian Mission recently provided nearly half a million doses of medicine and drugs in addition to some 20,000 pieces of critical medical supplies. We anticipate providing similar, if not more, support within the next few months. The demand for medical aid is clearly not decreasing.
Meanwhile, further north in Kachin State, the Burma army is demonstrating the brutality once reserved for the Karen. Another backpack medic reported that, “in the IDP [internally displaced person] clinic in my area, most of the patients I see are trauma patients suffering from bomb, landmine and gunshot wounds due to the ongoing attacks by the Burma army. Despite the Burma army closing in, I will continue working with the Kachin affected by conflict and provide the best medical treatment I can.”
The promises of a Burma army ceasefire extending to Kachin state turned out to be empty, as the army attacked villages within hours of it going into effect. Roughly 100,000 men, women and children have fled their homes, seeking sanctuary in the jungles or make-shift camps along the border with China.
Sadly, the violence appears spreading to other states. In the Palaung area that straddles the Kachin and Shan state areas, a backpack medic shared that Burma army attacks have increased in 2012. She went on to state that “this past November, cowards from a Burma army battalion used villagers as human shields to advance on the opposing forces’ position. They also use 4-5 people from each village as human minesweepers when they come through a village.”
It’s not surprising that Karen National Union leaders have told the Burma regime that the time is not right for development to continue or start.
Will General Motors, Caterpillar, Target and others get the message? If they do, will they care?
One constant remains encouraging: the compassion of individuals from so many communities who have the courage to support the medics. Your support is matched by the courage of the medics to continue their selfless service to their people.
Original article was written by Michael Isherwood
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