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.