Burma Between Cyclones

A cyclone will hit Arakan State later this week- Cyclone Mahasen in the Bay of Bengal. What has changed since the tsunami of 2008 hit the Irrawaddy Delta? Host, Nikki Kayser checks on the junta’s human rights record in general and the Rohingya Muslims in particular, since nearly half of the one hundred thousand Muslims who fled that violence are now in the path of the cyclone, living in tents in the low-lying areas at the coast up against the border with Bangladesh. How is the current leadership doing? Are there deep fractures in the quasi-civilian regime? A closed military dictatorship developing a modern democracy after 50 years of strict control is an interesting experiment.

Myra, who is a Christian Karen. Here, only first names are used for security reasons. She came from Karen State on the other side of Burma – that borders Thailand. This is a fifty-year old struggle that has similar elements to the current violence against the Rohingya Muslims. Myra is the Campaigns Coordinator of U.S. Campaign for Burma. Since age thirteen, Myra has played a strong role in her community as a human rights advocate. Myra was an internally displaced person for about twelve years and a refugee for seventeen years until she resettled to the U. S. Myra has lost many family members and friends to the brutality of Burma’s military regime. Myra explain what is going on in Karen now. She starts with her story.

Last June and again in October, deadly clashes between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims left one hundred and ninety people dead and a hundred thousand people – mostly Muslims – displaced. The Thein Sein regime is accused of consistently obstructed the delivery of humanitarian aid to them. The camps are reportedly overcrowded and lack adequate food, shelter, water and sanitation, as well as medical care. In March, a dispute at a gold shop in the central town of Meiktila, led to more violence between Buddhists and Muslims. Entire Muslim neighborhoods were razed, forty people were killed, and twelve thousand Muslims fled their homes. On May first anti-Muslim violence broke out in Oakkan, north of Rangoon. Buddhist mobs attacked mosques and torched seventy-seven homes. One mosque and some shops were destroyed by the riots. Host Nikki Kayser spoke with Erika yesterday. She works with Burmese refugees in Seattle, WA. She and her family volunteered with Rohingya in an encampment outside Delhi summer.

Resources:
Karen Women’s Organization- karenwomen.org
Karen American Communities Foundation- karensusa.org