By: Olivia Samples
Earlier this month, our advocates Soe Moe and Delphi traveled to be a part of Karen day. Karen day was organized by the Karen community at the suggestion that if they demonstrated in Washington, D.C. with 10,000 Karen people they might be able to make a change.
Soe Moe estimates that more than 10,000 people attended the demonstration in D.C. and there were many who gathered in Lincoln, Nebraska as well. They held a vigil to pray for their people and the President. They also wore traditional clothing, danced and showed their gratitude to the United States.
They were requesting three things:
- Protect all ethnic nationalities from the Burmese Army’s ethnic cleansing
- Reinstate harsh sanctions against the Burmese Army and its Generals
- Stop sending weapons, money, and training to the Burmese Army.
The Karen Conflict has been called the longest civil war in history. There are almost 135 ethnic groups in Burma. The ethnic cleansing of the people in Myanmar has been going on for almost 70 years.
A brief history:
In WWII the Karen fought with the British against the Japanese, who were aided by the Burman. When Japan captured the capital city, the British fled to India leaving the Karen alone with the Japanese and Burmese which began the ethnic cleansing. The Japanese occupation ended in 1945 when allied forces regained control. The Karen believed that they had the right to an independent nation, but the Burmese, who now controlled Myanmar, disagreed.
The Burmese formed a parliamentary government, but left out the Communist Party of Burma and the Karen National Union which represented the Karen minority. This caused many of the ethnic groups to call for independent states and to begin campaigns to regain the land.
The new military government turned Myanmar into a one-party socialist dictatorship. To keep Thai and Burmese communists from working together, both the United States and Thailand provided weapons to both the Burmese government and the Karen National Union. In 2011 the total military rule was lifted, but the fighting did not subside.
Human Rights Violations:
A Harvard study titled “The Offensive” has reported on the human rights violations of Burma. The Burmese Government and their army have been accused of killing fleeing civilians, sexual violence, forced labor and more.
It is estimated that one and a half million people have been displaced by the war.
In 2015 some of the rebel groups signed a ceasefire with the Burmese government. In the same year the Opposition National League for Democracy won the majority of seats in the election. The leader of this party, Aung San Suu Kyi, is a pro-democracy activist and the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize. Many are hopeful that with her leadership the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar might end.