Knowing that I have a little connection with the Karen people, today James sent me a link to an article about David Everett, who is about to publish a book of his years fighting with the Karen National Liberation Army in Burma.
Very interestingly, the article says,
The spectacle of Burma's military rulers withholding aid from their stricken people after Cyclone Nargis devastated the Irrawaddy Delta region has strengthened his sense of righteousness... The Karen were among those worst affected by the cyclone. Everett says it was one of the reasons the military was in no hurry to provide relief. "What aid's going in is going straight to the military," he says. "They're reselling it to the people. A lot of the things journos haven't picked up on is the Irrawaddy Delta: (there are) five million Karen there. They're the majority of the population in the delta."
Yes, I had also heard this from a Karen friend a few weeks after the cyclone hit Burma in early May this year, and although we've all heard about the obstructiveness of the Burmese (sorry, 'Myanmar') government in being apparently extremely reluctant to allow aid workers into the country, it was never made explicitly clear in the mainstream media why this was.
If you do not know very much about the history of Burma since WWII, it still may not be very clear to you. In a nutshell, the military rulers of that country have not really been prepared to share power with anyone despite that fact that this is a country of great ethnic diversity, and that autonomy for each of the ethnic regions was supposed to have been guaranteed under the Union of Burma, set up following the defeat of Japan at the end of the war. Things went off the rails at 10:37 a.m. on 19th June 1947, when General Aung San was assassinated in Rangoon. Ring some bells? The result has been decades of war and suffering as the Burmese military have fought against almost all of the ethnic groups for total domination of the country.
If you have time, I very much recommend you read:
- Bertil Lintner, Burma in Revolt
- Claudio O. Delang, Suffering in Silence: The Human Rights Nightmare of the Karen People of Burma
Even if you reckon yourself to be pretty tough and thick-skinned, don't read this second book in any place where you don't want people to see you cry.
There are also some photos (Adobe Flash Player required) on the Internet taken by the husband, himself a Karen, of a friend of mine. This is also not very nice, so don't look if you do not want to see something that may be offensive to you.
Humanity really can do better than this, can't we?