Growing up under militarisation

The Karen Human Rights Group has just released a 174-page report on the effects on children growing up in the context of violence – because of both ongoing armed conflict in Burma and Karen State (Kawthoolei; lit. ‘the land without evil’) and because of other more serious structural violence committed by the State. The report makes for sombre reading even while its very existence is a voice of hopeful protest; or, as Moltmann puts it, ‘There is already true life in the midst of the life that is false’. Here’s a blurb:

As the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the military junta currently ruling Burma, works to extend and consolidate its control over all areas of Karen State, local children, their families and communities confront regular, often violent, abuses at the hands of the regime’s officers, soldiers and civilian officials. While the increasing international media attention on the human rights situation in Burma has occasionally addressed the plight of children, such reporting has been almost entirely incident-based, and focused on specific, particularly emotive issues, such as child soldiers. Although incident-based reporting is relevant, it misses the far greater problems of structural violence, caused by the oppressive social, economic and political systems commensurate with militarisation, and the combined effects of a variety of abuses, which negatively affect a far larger number of children in Karen State. Furthermore, focusing on specific, emotive issues sensationalises the abuses committed against children and masks the complexities of the situation. In reports on children and armed conflict in Karen State and elsewhere, individual children’s agency, efforts to resist abuse and capacity to deal with the situations they live in, as well as the efforts made by their families and communities to provide for and protect them, tend to be marginalised and ignored. Drawing on over 160 interviews with local children, their families and communities, this report seeks to provide a forum for these people to explain in their own words the wider context of abuse and their own responses to attempts at denying children their rights. With additional background provided by official SPDC press statements and order documents, international media sources, reports by international aid agencies, as well as academic studies, this report argues that only by listening to local voices regarding the situation of abuse in which they live and taking as a starting point for advocacy and action local conceptions of rights and violations can external actors avoid the further marginalisation of children living in these areas and begin to build on villagers’ own strategies for resisting abuse and claiming their rights.

The full report can be downloaded here as a pdf.

As for Burma’s ruling junta, that trinity of evil – Maung Aye, Than Shwe and Shwe Mann – convert or kill them Lord. How long, O Lord? How long?

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