Some commendable work by another Aussie to help beleaguered Karens – many of them Christians – in Myanmar (Burma).
The latest is Liberal Party Member of Parliament Luke Simpkins who has crossed – illegally – from Thailand into Myanmar for a military parade and Revolution Day ceremony with rebel fighters. He presented them with an Australian flag.
According to a newspaper report:
Mr Simpkins defended the trip, saying it is important for outsiders to visit what the Karen call their sovereign state to “see what is actually going on”.
“It is through international pressure that countries such as Burma with military-controlled governments will be forced to change,” he said. “We should be very careful about accepting everything they [Myanmar’s authorities] say.
…”I am impressed by the Karen people and their determination . . . it’s been a 66 year-struggle and a lot of people have lost their lives,” he said.
Mr Simpkins said that if the government in Myanmar treated minority ethnic groups fairly in a true democracy “then there would be no need for weapons . . . but until they are treated fairly and their nationalities are respected, the fight will have to go on”.
Last year I wrote about Professor Desmond Ball of the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, after the revelation that for many years he had secretly been making regular trips to the jungles of Myanmar to advise the Karen National Liberation Army on guerrilla warfare tactics.
I quoted him telling an interviewer:
“A couple of particular guys were involved in taking large numbers of girls, raping them, mutilating them, and, when they’d finished with them, putting them in the bark and thatch huts and then burning the huts – burning the girls alive or just machine-gunning them.
“I was very uncomfortable with all of that and thought, ‘I just can’t go home and forget about this. I should be doing something.’ So I took my contacts with the armed groups another step forward in terms of working out operational techniques for in fact tracking down and getting rid of these guys.”
The Karen ethnic group, representing about 4 million of Myanmar’s 56 million people, has for many decades been harshly persecuted by the country’s ruling military junta. An estimated 25 per cent of the Karen are Christian, including much of the leadership of the Karen National Liberation Army.