Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Karen - Ethnically Cleansed in Burma Thanks To Corporate Investment

There have been many interesting posts about the ongoing situation in Burma, what with the images of peaceful monks being slaughtered by over zealous soldiers eager to please their military leaders. One story that has bubbled under the surface is the case of the systematic cleansing of ethnic minorities along the Burmese/Thai border. One of the main victims of this growing genocide has been the Karen.

The Karen (self-titled Pwa Ka Nyaw Po and also known in Thailand as the Kariang) originate from Tibet and have had tempestuous relations with the Burmese throughout their history. In 1947, the KNU ( Karen National Union) was formed. The KNU was involved in an insurgency against the Burmese military junta throughout the 1980s leading, ultimately, to the 8888 uprising which was brutally crushed by the Burmese regime, leading to deaths numbering in the thousands. After the uprising, the junta cracked down on the KNU and its numbers dropped from 40,000 to 4,000. Even now they are suffering the consequences for their call for freedom.

Along the border with Thailand, the Karen (along with other groups) have been murdered, raped, forced into labour and had their houses burnt down. In short, a genocide is taking place. Only now, with the spotlight on Burma, has the grim reality of life in Burma as an ethnic minority become apparent. The following is taken from The Guardian:

BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) - While international attention has focused on the protests for democracy in Myanmar's cities, a hidden war has decimated generations of the country's powerless ethnic minorities, who have faced brutality for decades.

The Karen, the Shan and other minority groups who live along the Myanmar-Thai border have been attacked, raped and killed by government soldiers. Their thatched-roofed, bamboo homes have been torched. Men have been seized into forced labor for the army, while women, children and the elderly either hide out in nearby jungles until the soldiers leave or flee over the mountains to crowded, makeshift refugee camps.

``Many, many thousands of Karen have died in those 60 years,'' Karen National Union secretary general Mahn Sha said this week of his people's struggle for autonomy since 1947.

The military junta has denied reports of atrocities and says the ethnic rebels are "terrorists''
[note the use of the word] trying to overthrow the government.

The Southeast Asian nation, formerly known as Burma, has more than 100 subtribes. Myanmar's diverse minority groups make up nearly a third of the country's 54 million population.

About two-thirds of the country belong to the Burman ethnic majority, which is also known as the Myanmar. The other ethnic groups include the Shan, the Karen, the Chin, the Mon, the Arakan or Rakhine, and the Kachin.

The plight of the Karen emphasises the impact that Western investment has in the region. Those companies that have been operating in Burma (the teak suppliers, the travel industry etc) have effectively been paying for these human rights abuses. Every bullet fired into every man/woman/child is paid for by the corporations operating in the region. Every rape that is committed is the direct responsibility of the corporations that invest there. Every village that is burnt to the ground is done so with the support of those very corporations that claim to have a conscience. How else can they explain why they are happy to give the Burmese government the money to indulge their military in such a way? I don't really know how these people can sleep at night knowing that they are financing murder and rape. May it rest heavy on their souls.