(The Darkness Visible series)
(Image via Irrawaddy News, June 2013)
When the Shan people practice drills to defend their homeland against the aggressive Burmese military they practice with wooden rifles. In a war for survival the only bullets the Shan are able to obtain are saved for the Myanmar soldiers who stalk the Shan forests. In many cases the Shan people hug the border in hopes that the pugnacious Burmese military will avoid conducting their attacks in view of the outside world. In a war for survival the Shan civilians are left with only a remnant of their homeland upon which to live.
This is the "war on drugs" in the far north of Myanmar. Utilizing cheap excuses that will buy themselves favor in the West, Myanmar's generals commit ethnic cleansing against the Shan people. There has been no real effort on the part of Burma's government to actually end the transportation and growing of opium. Instead the excuse is simply kept alive so as to give the Burmese military a reason to maintain their genocidal campaign against the Shan people. This is a war fought beneath the black flag... no surrender, no ceasefire, no peace.
Where ever the boots of Burmese soldiers go in regions populated by ethnic minorities they raise this black flag. Taking what they want from the ethnic states before burning what they can't carry off as plunder. Villages that are razed are turned into "black zones" as the Burmese military plants landmines around their victims' homes. There is no right to return to normality for those who are unfortunate enough to live in the path of this cannibalistic military. These victims are turned into fodder for future exhibitions by Burma's legions.
Life Within The "Black Zones"
(Image via Irrawaddy News, April 3 2013)
In World War One there was the "no-man's land". A long stretch of scorched earth that separated hostile enemies. Over the years of conflict this stretch of land became filled with craters from artillery and barbed wire, both meant to slow advancing troops. It was on either side of this wire and blackened ground that the opposing forces dug their way into deep (and complex) trenches. From these hellish gashes in the earth the two sides launched failed attack after failed attack. And yet the war dragged on and on. With each side "going over the top" and out into no-man's land only to die.
For the ethnic minorities in eastern and northern Burma there is little land that they could dub "no-man's land". However there are plenty of places that are openly refereed to as "black zones". For the ethnic minorities these were once places that they had called home. Kachin villages, Karen homes, and Shan fields... all planted with landmines. This tactic is meant to keep the targeted ethnic group on the run. It keeps those from the village and any refugees within it from returning. And at the same time prevents migration of minorities back into lands claimed by the invading Burmese forces.
In a world that claims to be for the downtrodden and the underdog we once again see the failure of the world community in securing the right to return for internally displaced peoples living on the edges of these black zones. Despite murmuring by NGOs and UN secretaries, the Burmese military continues to actively lay new mine fields. These anti-personnel mines create the tragic images like that listed above. Yet all the world can afford these victims is lip service?
For those trapped in the black zones there is little hope for life or liberty. When trapped behind these lines the civilians in the Kachin and Shan state are hunted like animals by ever diligent barbarians (Burma's Army). They face coordinated assaults that often involve aerial bombardment or artillery strikes just before the machine gunners lay siege to villages and camps. Advancing Burmese soldiers then sweep the village in hopes of finding only women and children. Those caught in the dragnet are systematically tortured then slaughtered. Anything that can walk or ever hold a weapon is killed. For those trapped in the black zones every day is a struggle to survive.
Yet like Mr. Rogers once said, "look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping."
Traveling into the areas that appear to be kill zones, the Free Burma Rangers put their lives at risk when they infiltrate enemy lines. Once in the black zones the Free Burma Rangers are open to reprisals and ambush by an enemy that is determined to cleanse the state of "inferior" ethnic groups. And yet these brave souls cross over the land of the damned to bring the innocent to safety. Standing in the gap between the beast and it's prey the Free Burma Rangers document the atrocities and save those left behind.
In stories that echo those of the American Underground Railroad, the Free Burma Rangers lead refugees out of areas that appear to be next in line for the Burmese army. In other trips the Free Burma Rangers bring food, water, and medicine to the IDP camps nearest to Burmese military activity. It is in these trips that the Free Burma Rangers provide aid and training to the refugees that have been victimized by Burma's brutal campaign of genocide.
This is the little glimmer of hope in a land blackened by a military far from willing to lower it's black flag.
The Penis As A Weapon Of Genocide
(Image via Burma Campaign UK)
What is the one thing every Burmese soldier carries into the field that doesn't need replaced or reloaded in order to ruin lives?
Rape has long been a trademark of war. It has plagued the fairer sex every since the first testosterone fueled army took to the field. Yet for all our time affiliated with such sins, for all the time that we have spent fighting against it, this crime has only increased in as our hatred for one-another has grown. It allows the savage an opportunity to dehumanize their victim. It offers the soldier an outlet for the rage that their master has put in place. And yet there is no justification one can present for this horrific act of violence.
In Burma the use of rape as a weapon of war and genocide has been prolific, to say the least. Myanmar's military leaders readily look the other way as their minions utilize this most perverse weapon to implement Burma's campaign of "Burmanization". Thus utilizing one perverse weapon to bring about a perverse ideology.
Like the Turks of the Ottoman Empire, Burma's soldiers are given free reign when entering an ethnic minority's village. Men who flee into the forest to evade slave labor therefore risk leaving their wives and daughters open to rape and mutilation. Any woman who attempts to flee makes themselves an almost certain target for rape and torture. Once the Burmese soldiers enter the village they become the law... their words, their actions, their crimes... this is the reality of what "Burmanization" means to those it most directly affects.
In the Kachin this method has been used both to demoralize the targeted population and in an attempt to destroy the families within the victimized community. Raiding IDP camps, the Burmese rape women in front of their husbands and children so as to make the violence blatantly clear to the Kachin community. In the black zones of the Kachin State the Burmese army uses rape to motivate women to stay away from the claimed territories.
For the Rohingya of the Arakan State the uses of rape is specifically utilized by Nasaka and Burmese military members in an attempt to isolate Rohingya women. Rohingya girls are known to be rounded up and taken to Burmese military installations where soldiers use the girls as sex slaves. This is used as a way to permanently scar the Rohingya girls both mentally and physically. On the Burmese side it permits the soldiers a rather perverted moral boost that can keep soldiers motivated and in the field longer.
In the end the use of rape as a weapon of genocide is viewed through the perverts' eyes as way to "pollute the blood" of the targeted community. It doesn't matter that the children that are bore out of this violence will be viewed with just as much contempt as their victimized mothers. It doesn't matter that Burma will never accept responsibility for their soldiers' actions. In the eyes of the perverted architects of these genocides, the weapon's damage is justified due to it's effectiveness in destroying cultures, communities, and the very fabric of the minorities' societies. The only desire and rationalization for this horrific act is that of destruction.
For the victims these weapons of genocide... this black flag... will forever be lifted above their heads. As long as the perpetrators of these crimes are allowed the impunity currently given to them by both the West and Burma alike, there will be no peace. There can be no surrender, no ceasefire, nor any hope as long as criminals are allowed to walk away from the fight unmolested.
Cutting Down The Black Flag
We here at Alder's Ledge don't claim to have all the answers. Post like this one are not meant to offer a clear path to the end of this wretched darkness. They are only meant to shine a light on the darkness so as to make it visible for all to see. We don't want to tell you what to think, we just want to make you start thinking... thinking critically... questioning why.
With your help, your voice, we can continue to shine a light upon this darkness that has for far too long masked the ethnic minorities of Myanmar. With your help we can show the world what they have been so willing to ignore. Forcing those in a position to end these things, dragging the fight back to those who tolerate this evil, we can create a noise that the world cannot tune out. A scream, if you will...
We need you to scream with us. The victims of these genocidal campaigns need you to scream for them. Their voices have been silenced for decades. The voice of their ancestors has been muted by the heels of oppressive tyrants. The voice of their children is threatened by our silence.
This isn't an activist blog... this is the front line for those who cannot travel to the fields and forests of Burma. It is here that we stand against the complicity of our own governments. It is from this ledge that we bring our voices to the forefront of our own portion of this blackened world. It is with our voice that we do our best to wage a war, if all be it a war of words, against those who would kill in the name of G-d, country, race, or greed.
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(note not all sources are listed)
http://www.irrawaddy.org/archives/38596 - June 26, 2013
http://www.irrawaddy.org/archives/31344 - April 3, 2013
One Million Bones
Free Burma Rangers
Burma Campaign UK