“I can’t stay quiet anymore. My cousins are running for their lives. I have to do something,” said Aldergrove resident Buela Say.
Say was a child when her family arrived in Canada, but she remembers the hardship they faced in the refugee camps.
Today, many members of Say’s family are among the 20,000 Karen people who have been displaced and are on the run due to the military coup that took place in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) on Feb. 1, 2021.
Say took part in a protest in Vancouver last month along with other members of the Karen community.
The protest, organized by Luke Moo and the BC Karen Canadian Youth Leaders, was held to bring awareness to the desperate situation in Myanmar and to ask the Canadian government to take a stand against the ongoing genocide.
“We want the Canadian government to put pressure on countries such as Russia and China to stop supplying arms and weapons to the Myanmar military,” Say explained. “We are urging the Canadian government to increase humanitarian assistance for our people who are fleeing war in the Karen State and other parts of Burma.”
The Karen are a large ethnic group who make up approximately seven per cent of the total Burmese population. Soon after the Second World War ended, civil war broke out between the Karen and the Burmese.
In 2005, after a major offensive by the Myanmar government, close to 140,000 Karen people were displaced and forced into Thai refugee camps located along the border with Myanmar.
To date, over 700 civilians including women and children have been killed by military and police forces while almost 3,100 people have been detained.
Moo is planning more protests and while he acknowledges that doing so during the COVID-19 pandemic is very difficult, he has no plans to stop until the situation in Myanmar improves.
“I would like to do as many protests as I can,” he said. “This is a great nightmare for me to see, but I am proud of the younger generation who is taking a stand for a better future for the Karen people left behind in Myanmar,” he added.
In addition to the protests, Moo and Say will be lobbying Langley’s Members of Parliament’s Tamara Jansen and Tako van Popta. They want to impress upon the MP’s that the international community must take a stand against ethnic cleansing by an oppressive military.
“It’s time for the international community to realize that it was a mistake to promote and fund the deeply flawed peace process amid the Tatmadaw’s Burmese military’s never-ending attacks in ethnic territories,” Moo explained.
The Karen community are also fundraising to help their families back home.
Recently the BC Karen Canadian Youth Leaders held a bottle drive and have launched a Facebook campaign, titled ‘For Internally Displaced People in Karen State of Burma.’
Always concerned for her family in Myanmar, Say explains that the conditions have worsened so much in the past six months it has prompted her to do something.
People can visit Moo’s Facebook page, For Internally Displaced People in Karen State of Burma, to donate or get involved.
People may also contact Moo by phone at 604-729-4907 and Say at 604-440-7642 if they wish to help.
“There are already a number of fundraisers going on in our community right now, from selling food, doing bottle drives, and collecting cash donations. We are doing whatever we can to help support our fellow refugees back home. Because we have experienced the atrocities firsthand we know how difficult it is for them to survive in the jungle at this time,” she said.
– With files from Langley freelance writer Lilianne Fuller
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