Friday, November 12, 2010

Burma could become another Balkans, Jesuit warns

If the regime in Burma collapses, civil war could break out, causing great suffering and displacement - this is the opinion of the Jesuit Fr Bernard Arputhasamy, SJ, Regional Director of Jesuit Refugee Service Asia-Pacific, based in Bangkok.

Fr Bernard, who has just returned from a mission on the border with Myanmar, also confirmed the current ongoing humanitarian crisis: "More than 20,000 people of the ethnic group Karen have crossed the border to escape the conflict between the Burmese army and ethnic groups, following elections," he said.

He said the emergency response was being managed in a joint effort between the Thai government, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and a group of NGOs, including the Jesuit Refugee Service, who are bringing tents, food, drinking water, and medicine to the refugees.

Fr Bernard said: "The problem of ethnic minorities in Myanmar is very complex and goes back years, to prior to the country's independence. Many groups, such as the Karen, Shan, and Kachin are seeking territorial independence. They want their own state. Each group is internally divided and does not speak with one voice. In any case, the Burmese regime is the one ensuring territorial unity by force. If the regime were to collapse any time soon, I am sure there would be a civil war and Myanmar would end up like the Balkans or Iraq."

He continued: "I think sometimes people view Myanmar with too much romance, or the country is attributed with a sort of 'ideology of
democracy' which does not take into account the situation on the ground, the historical and social conditions. We demand freedom and human rights, but I think the solution is in a progressive involvement of the Burmese junta in a democratic transition, made of small steps forward...also with the intervention of states like China and India, which have strong trade relations with Myanmar. It is a long and tiring path, which also involves educating the diverse population of Myanmar in the prospect of a federal state. But, I think this is the only non-violent approach."

Thai Children’s Trust is appealing for funds to help feed Burmese refugees in the Mae Sot area, where more than half the refugee children are malnourished. If you would like to support their work see:

Source: Fides/TCT