Category Archives: Myanmar

Persecution Fatigue – Can We Mourn Every Murdered Christian?

A couple of weeks ago I reprinted portions of a speech given in the Australian Parliament by a politician who had secretly travelled into a rebel-held region of Myanmar (Burma).

Luke Simpkins, a member of Australia’s ruling Liberal Party (which is actually a conservative party), attended a military parade and Revolution Day ceremony with rebel fighters and presented them with an Australian flag.

In his parliamentary speech he reported on a continuing series of atrocities by the Myanmar military against the rebels, including this:

“Two Kachin girls were raped and killed on 19 January 2015 by troops of the Burmese Army. The girls were named Maran Lu Ra, age 20, and Tangbau Hkawn Nan Tsin, age 21. They were Kachin Baptist volunteer missionaries working in northern Burma along the Kachin-Shan state border. The rape occurred in the KBC church compound in northern Shan state. On the night of 19 January, Burmese Army troops came into the church ground where the girls were sleeping, raped them and then beat them to death.”

I later got a reader’s comment on my blog: “I try to keep abreast of what’s happening regarding Christian persecution, but I was not aware of this. Thank you for this report. I will be praying for this situation.”

I suspect many, many Christians are not aware that – despite some recent talk of liberalization in the country – the Myanmar Army has quite brutally and systematically been persecuting the country’s Kachin people, many of whom are Christians.

For example, in a report of the rape and murder of the two young Baptist women, the Christian Daily website noted that over 70 instances of sexual violence by Myanmar Army troops in Kachin and other ethnic regions have been recorded in recent years.

Yet Myanmar ranks just 25th in the Open Doors 2015 World Watch List of the 50 countries where Christians face the most persecution.

It is another sign that the persecution of Christians is escalating around the world. And, with the eyes of most of us focused on horrific events in the Middle East and Nigeria, it is too easy to forget about Number 25.

We sometimes hear references to compassion fatigue – a kind of burnout from having to cope with an ever-increasing influx of grief. I wonder if some Christians are afflicted by persecution fatigue.

It is fortunate that we have a God who knows intimately all His suffering children. He has already wiped the tears from Maran Lu Ra and Tangbau Hkawn Nan Tsin, and He holds them safely in His arms.

Fighting Back – Must We Always Turn the Other Cheek?

When do Christians fight back? Many are asking that question after the horrific beheading of 21 Christians in Libya, followed by the kidnapping of more than 200 Christians in Syria.

Some continue to believe that Jesus enjoined us not to fight at all. That we must always turn the other cheek.

I prefer to listen to Andrew Grills, formerly an Anglican chaplain with the Australian Defence Force, who witnessed monstrous atrocities by the Indonesian military against Christians in East Timor.

“There was a house only 30 meters from the fort where I worked for seven months,” he wrote. “It was called the kissing house. Timorese Christian girls would be taken from their homes by Indonesian militia, raped, then taken out and shot.

“If you are a Christian pacifist, you will not lift a finger directly to help people who suffer like this. And if you do encourage a peace-keeping force to help them then you are asking others to do your dirty work, work that you believe is immoral. Which is the greater evil?”

Another Australian, Desmond Ball, a professor at the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, was a witness to atrocities against the minority Karen ethnic people in Myanmar (Burma). He actually acted on his principles. (Note that Professor Ball did not respond to my request for an interview, and I do not know if he is Christian.)

“A couple of particular guys were involved in taking large numbers of girls,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation last year. “[They were] 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.”

For many years he secretly made regular trips to the jungles of Myanmar to advise members of the Karen National Liberation Army – many of whom are Christians – on guerrilla warfare tactics, including the interception of enemy radio transmissions. He also instructed them on how to initiate ambushes that would inflict maximum damage on the Burmese army, while minimizing their own losses.

Now we are witnessing genocide against Christians in parts of the Middle East. Surely it is time to fight back.

Rape, Torture, Landmines, Chemical Weapons – Continuing Persecution of Ethnic Burmese

Congratulations to West Australian politician Luke Simpkins for his statement to Parliament on continuing Burmese government persecution of that country’s ethnic peoples. (I was going to write “ethnic minorities,” but in fact Luke notes in his speech that the so-called “ethnic” groups are around 60 per cent of the population.)

Just a few weeks ago he even visited the country, crossing – illegally – from Thailand into Burma for a military parade and Revolution Day ceremony with rebel fighters. He presented them with an Australian flag.

Sadly, Burma (now formally retitled Myanmar) is not a place that Australians have much interest in, and I haven’t been able to find any media reports of his speech to Parliament. So here are a few excerpts –

I have heard consistent reports of brutality and atrocities, but as the source of some of my comments today I would like to pay particular tribute to an excellent organisation, the Free Burma Rangers. I encourage anyone who doubts the validity of what I say today to look at their website. FBR is a multi-ethnic humanitarian service. They send teams, provided by ethnic pro-democracy groups into the areas under attack by the Burmese Army in order to provide emergency medical care, shelter, food, clothing and human rights documentation. The teams use a communication and information network inside Burma that provides real-time information from areas under attack. Primarily they are about health, and reporting the facts of what is going on.

…On 11 December it was reported that on 19 November 2014, the Burmese Army’s Light Infantry Battalion 390 fired a 105 millimetre Howitzer at the Kachin officer training school in Waingmaw in Kachin State, killing 23 trainees. That included two Free Burma Rangers that were present. Later on, the Burmese shelled villages and displaced persons camps, killing three more people. The Free Burma Rangers also reported that two Kachin girls were raped and killed on 19 January 2015 by troops of the Burmese Army. The girls were named Maran Lu Ra, age 20, and Tangbau Hkawn Nan Tsin, age 21. They were Kachin Baptist volunteer missionaries working in northern Burma along the Kachin-Shan state border. The rape occurred in the KBC church compound in northern Shan state. On the night of 19 January, Burmese Army troops came into the church ground where the girls were sleeping, raped them and then beat them to death.

At Nam Lim Pa Village in Kachin state on 30 January, the Free Burma Rangers teams found three bodies with evidence of torture. All three were killed when the Burmese Army attacked in late November 2013. A total of seven people were killed in or nearby the village. One of the victims was La Bang La Ring; he was killed by the Burmese Army in Nam Lim Pa and found with six deep knife or axe cuts on his back, as well as other signs of torture. He was a deaf-mute.

Nhkun Brang Aung was 20 years old and mentally disabled. When everyone else was fleeing the advancing Burmese Army troops, he said he was not afraid of the Burmese Army because he did not believe troops would bother someone like him.

Another unidentified body was found with rope burns; his head had been scalded with boiling water; his body bore signs of additional torture; he had been shot to death.

When Scott Johnson and I visited Mae Sot in Thailand, we met with a number of Thai, Karen and others from different ethnic groups. I even met with a mine clearer who told me how significant the Burmese Army mine threat was. He is doing a great job of recruiting and training local ethnic people to help clear the mines. For me, the use of mines by the Burmese Army is a significant issue. The Burmese Army operates hundreds of outposts and camps in the territory of the ethnic peoples. They lay anti-personnel mines around these posts and when they leave, they leave the mines behind. Upon reoccupation by the local ethnic villagers, some mines get cleared but sometimes someone is killed or maimed before they clear the mines or if they trip a mine that has been missed. 

When I visited the Mae Tao Clinic in Mae Sot in January, I visited the prosthetic limb workshop and saw where they assist those victims of the Burmese army’s landmines. When I was at Oo Kray Kee village in Karen State, Burma, I saw some people that had lost limbs.

I believe that the Burmese regime should be held accountable for their use of landmines. I have also been told that in June 2011 in the north of Shan State, the Burmese army even used chemical weapons. I should also mention that there are consistent allegations that the Burmese have a strategy of selling drugs into the ethnic communities. These are the strategies of the Burmese regime and they should be known.

Another Aussie Helping Karen Fighters in Myanmar

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.

Helping A Persecuted Minority Fight Back – A Professor’s Secret Mission

It reads like something from a best-selling international thriller.

A prominent military strategist, now a university professor, has revealed that for many years he has secretly been making regular trips to the jungles of Myanmar – formerly Burma – to advise the Karen National Liberation Army on guerrilla warfare tactics.

He is Desmond Ball, a professor at the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in Canberra. Previously he has worked with the CIA, the Pentagon and the White House.

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.

Professor Ball’s revelation came in June on the occasion of the award to him of the Order of Australia, the country’s top non-military official honor. He also revealed that he was battling terminal cancer.

In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Professor Ball said his involvement with the Karen started when he learned of atrocities being committed against them by member of the Burmese army.

He told the interviewer: “A couple of particular guys were involved in taking large numbers of girl, 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.”

He has advised the guerrilla fighters on intercepting enemy radio transmissions, while enhancing the security of their own communications. He has also instructed them on how to initiate ambushes that would inflict maximum damage on the Burmese army, while minimizing their own losses.

“I’ve done things which do go well beyond what is done by a normal academic,” he told the interviewer. “But there is nothing there that I believe has been wrong and there’s nothing that I regret.”

Despite some recent democratic reforms in Myanmar, the Open Doors Christian organization this year ranked it at No. 23 on its annual World Watch List of the top 50 countries where persecution of Christians is most intense.

Indeed, conditions for minority ethnic groups such as the Karen are actually deteriorating, according to Professor Ball, with the military now engaged in wholesale land grabs for mineral and plantation wealth.

“We’ve seen in the last couple of years the first use of helicopter gunships against villages,” he told the interviewer. “We’ve seen the first use of jet fighter aircraft launching missiles against villages.”