Recently here in Washington DC, we were lucky have three of Burma’s major civil society leaders visiting. Burma’s most famous comedian Zarganar (aka) Ko Thura, women’s rights activist Khin Than Myint from NLD , and Daw Bawk Jar, Kachin woman activist and Chairman of the National Democratic Force Party’s Kachin State Branch, spent nine days in Washington, DC, two days in New York and shocked policy makers and NGO leaders in these cities with their frank, sincere and open explanation about the situation in Burma.
There was a public forum at the National Endowment for Democracy with them on February 2nd. You can see a review of what happened here:
In their meetings these are some of the main points they highlighted:
– Situation in Burma has not changed yet, may be beginning of change, but there are many situation that will push the country back to the dark.
– They agreed that international pressure has played important role in making these changes and they don’t want sanctions lifted without securing the real changes.
– Political prisoners’ releases are conditional, with Section 401, and they all can be rearrested anytime if the President is not happy. There are over 320 political prisoners still behind bars and they asked the United States to put pressure on the government for the unconditional release.
– They don’t think the upcoming by-election will make significant difference. They highlighted that a free and fair by-election is not a major issue. The major issue is what Daw Aung San Suu Kyi can do in the Parliament.
– They talked about wars in Kachin State, highlighted that Commander-in-Chief didn’t listen to the order of the President, more than 70,000 refugees and IDPs in over 60 camps, most of them are women, children and the elders, they don’t have shelters, foods, medicines, warm clothes, enough. Some of them died. Women and girls were raped. People are used as porters. Villages and buildings were destroyed. UN officials came one time only with little help. They demanded for ending the war, allowing assistance for refugees, conducting investigation on human rights violations against civilians by both armies, rehabilitation of refugees, etc.
– They said real national reconciliation and sustainable peace can be made only when the government holds nationwide political discussion with all ethnic armed groups, grants their ethnic rights, and grantees these rights in the Constitution.
– They welcomed the international assistance for development of civil society. They urged the governments to review their way of delivering assistance and make sure that their assistance reach to the people in need through those who have real access to these poor people. Most of Burma’s civil society, even those who operate not in secret cannot register, there are too many barriers, and so cannot get international aid.
Foreign Policy magazine also did an interview with Zarganar you can read here: “No Joke”