Friday, August 14, 2009
It’s time for an international arms embargo against the Burmese regime
Soldiers entering villages and killing people on sight. Landmines blowing pregnant women to smithereens. There’s no way this is really going on. The world would never tolerate this. These were the words flashing through my mind as I watched the fourth installment of the Rambo franchise. The film portrays the brutal ethnic cleansing campaign in Eastern Burma targeting the Karen people, a situation that is every bit as bad as what’s happening in Darfur. Little did I know that in just eight short weeks, I’d actually be standing on the same soil as the Karen people, talking with victims of the junta’s atrocities and listening to their stories.
My wife and I are freelance Christian missionaries. In a nutshell, we travel the world and look for ways to share our faith and/or help people in practical ways. About a week after I saw the Rambo movie, I met a missionary at a conference in Texas that lives in Thailand and works among the Karen people living in refugee camps along the Thai/Burma border. At the conference an invitation was given for volunteers to go to Thailand and teach an oral communications workshop at a Karen Bible School. Within three weeks the door to our previous commitment to travel to Brazil was slammed shut—providentially I think—and we were able to credit our tickets to travel to Thailand instead.
While in Thailand we spent six days at a Bible School with Karen pastors in training. Many of the young men and women had been driven out of their homes when they were little children. Some told us stories about their home villages being burned to the ground. Others were too young to remember life outside of the refugee camp, but longed to return to their homeland nonetheless. The constant theme we heard was that the junta troops are continuing to systematically drive Karen people out of their villages and are placing landmines in the villages to keep the people from coming back. Amazingly, we were able to cross the border into Burma and hear many of the same stories from Burma’s Internally displaced Persons. Many of them fear that if the world doesn’t act soon, there will be a final campaign in 2010 that will wipe their people off the map forever.
Speculation aside, here are the facts:
• In Eastern Burma, the military regime has destroyed, burned, or relocated over 3,000 villages;
• At least one million refugees have fled the country;
• An additional million people remain inside the country as internal refugees. They face abuse in the forms of rape, torture, extortion, and murder. Many are also forced into forced labor for government projects and army
campaigns – a modern form of slavery;
• The military junta in Burma has recruited more child soldiers than any other country in the world – up to 70,000;
• Sexual violence is used as a weapon of war in Eastern Burma, terrorizing thousands of women and their families;
So how can the world community bring down such an evil regime? Do we have to propose another military intervention? Not necessarily. History shows that when brutal regimes are denied the money and the weapons to carry out their atrocities, the people are able to rise up and take back their country. The British and French governments are currently calling for the UN Security Council to impose a global arms embargo on the regime, with the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stating that "nothing less than global arms embargo" should be imposed on the Burmese regime. Brown also said "I also believe that the UN Security Council - whose will has been flouted - must also now respond resolutely and impose a worldwide ban on the sale of arms to the regime."
You and I can make that happen. Now that Burma’s pro-democracy leader has been sent back to house arrest for another 18 months, there’s a window of opportunity for the U.S. and the world media to give Burma the attention it deserves. Go to http://www.uscampaignforburma.org and sign the petition to tell Ban Ki Moon to pass a resolution to stop the genocide in Burma. The clock is ticking. God have mercy on us all if we stand by and do nothing.