Children on the Edge welcome Aung San Suu Kyi’s arrival in the UK and her much awaited address to parliament on the 21st June, her 67th birthday. Ms Suu Kyi is the first person who is not a Head of State to address parliament. Over the years she has become an international symbol of peaceful resistance having spent the last two decades under house arrest because of her commitment to bringing democracy to Burma. Last week she was able to officially receive the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, which she was awarded in 1991 but unable to collect in person due to her detention.
There has been much in the media of late regarding some positive moves towards democracy in Burma, and the fact that Aung San Suu Kyi is able to visit Europe in itself is a reflection of these changes. However Ms Suu Kyi has clearly stated that "Some are a little bit too optimistic about the situation. We are cautiously optimistic. We are at the beginning of a road”.
Reports coming in over the last few months evidence all too harshly the long road ahead for Burma. The Karen Women’s Organisation partner with us in providing nurseries for 300 displaced children on the borders of Burma. In their World Refugee Day statement today they described how “Although there is a lot of media attention on the current Peace Process in Burma there is little change on the ground for the ethnic peoples. In fact, we have seen more human rights violations, land confiscations, increased Burmese military presence, forced labor, killing and continued fighting in some areas. It is not safe for refugees to return to Burma.”
Kachin State has also experienced a disturbing increase in human rights abuses in recent months, despite the ‘good press’ in the world media. Free Burma Rangers report that there is no ceasefire in these areas with a remaining 110 Burma army battalions shooting civiliians, using chemical munitions, burning down homes and shelling villages.
Reports have poured in as the military continue to torture civilians, force labour and use rape as a weapon of war. Ben Rogers of Christian Solidarity Worldwide says “There is an urgent need for substantial reform or repeal of repressive legislation, significant constitutional reform and the development of the rule of law”. He says that Ms Suu Kyi’s visit is “historic and very welcome, but it marks a potential turning-point, rather than a conclusion, to her country’s many decades of struggle for freedom and peace”.
Hardships and abuses for ethnic peoples are also on the increase in Arakan (Rakhine) State where the Rohingya people continue to be persecuted. At present the World Food Programme estimates there are about 90,000 displaced people in need of assistance as a result of the recent religious and ethnic clashes. As they flood over the borders to Bangladesh the refugees are continually pushed back, as a report from Human Rights Watch highlighted today. Children on the Edge have been working with the Rohingya on the borders of Bangladesh for the last year, providing education to over 900 children in the makeshift camps. As persecution increases this work is more vital than ever.
As Aung Sung Suu Kyi makes a historic address to both Houses of Parliament this week, and in the light recent cuts to refugees on the borders of Burma and to internally displaced people, we urge you to consider her appeal from the Nobel Peace Prize speech. She says “Can we afford to indulge in compassion fatigue? Is the cost of meeting the needs of refugees greater than the cost that would be consequent on turning an indifferent, if not a blind, eye on their suffering? I appeal to donors the world over to fulfill the needs of these people who are in search, often it must seem to them a vain search, of refuge."
Please read more about our work on the Bangladeshi and Thai borders of Burma and donate to our work.