What can be done for Burma?

 Benedict Rogers of CSW visited Seattle recently and spoke about what can be done  about the problems of Burma.  He listed ways for people to campaign for meaningful change in Burma:

  1. Advocate for a universal arms embargo to go through the United Nations (US Campaign for Burma)
  2. Advocate  referral of the SPDC (illegal government of Burma) by the United Nations to the International Criminal Court to bring the generals to justice for crimes against humanity
  3. Support the democracy movement’s current campaign for a credential’s challenge in the United Nations to challenge the idea that this illegal regime has the right to represent the people of Burma (UN Credentials)
  4. Campaign for increased humanitarian aid to Burma, particularly to the areas where hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people are struggling with very little humanitarian assistance (Free Burma Rangers)
  5. Increased awareness and international response to the famine in Chin state caused by a plague of rats which have destroyed the food supply of 200 villages leaving at least 100,000 people close to starvation (Chin Relief)

The Change for Burma Campaign is run by Christian Solidarity Worldwide and Partners Relief & Development UK.


Local Authorities Deny Villagers Food Aid in Chin State

The three articles linked below highlight the ongoing food crisis in Chin State in Burma.  People are starving due to a plague of rats.  Once again, as after Cyclone Nargis, authorities are denying food aid to people in need, or, as the FBR report in the second link, hijacking donated food for their own use.  While this comes as no surprise, it continues to highlight the incredible need for justice, basic human rights, and appropriate response from the world community.  If it was your kids starving, how would you want the world to respond?  I’ve been haunted the last few days by a quote from Cornell West that I found on simplymissional.com  “Justice is what love looks like in public…”  God, help us learn what that means and how to live it! 




Donors Responding to Border Food Crisis (TBBC Update)

Below is an update received from friends in Thailand on the food crisis in the refugee camps…


Donors Responding to Border Food Crisis

During the last few months the Thailand Burma Border Consortium has been appealing for attention to a pending crisis for over 140,000 Burmese refugees along the Thailand Burma border due to soaring rice prices. Just two weeks ago there was serious concern that unless a funding shortage of US$6.8 million (EUR 4.3 million) was addressed, refugee rations might have to be cut by up to one half.
At a crucial meeting last night it was possible for the TBBC Board to postpone any decision on ration cuts until its next meeting scheduled for 13th August due to a combination of a significant improvement in the funding situation and an easing of rice prices. Although there is still a funding shortage of USD 3.5 million (EUR 2.3 million) the reduced shortfall allows another two months to resolve the problem.
“We are extremely grateful to the Canadian Government who this week announced an additional contribution of C$ 1 million (USD 1 million, EUR 650,000) for 2008, the UK Government for an additional contribution of GBP 330,000 (USD 600,000, EUR 425,000) and many other donors and friends who have contributed smaller amounts at this critical time” said Jack Dunford, TBBC’s Executive Director, “After a very worrying time, rice prices also appear to be falling and with foreign exchange rates improving slightly everything is now hopefully moving in the right direction”.
The situation remains fragile with rice prices still volatile. Fund raising is ongoing to address the US$ 3.5 million shortfall and responses are awaited from the US, Spanish and Australian governments amongst others. “We are hopeful that Royal Thai Government may also be able to help”, commented Mr. Dunford.
“The future for Burma remains very uncertain after Cyclone Nargis and further migration cannot be ruled out” he added. “There are likely to be many new challenges ahead for refugees and displaced people, but it has been crucial to maintain stability on the border during these uncertain times.  I am increasingly hopeful that we can solve the short term crisis. We still need to raise the balance outstanding but then we will be in a position to respond as the situation develops”. 
Media contact:               
Sally Thompson
TBBC Deputy Executive Director

See their web site at tbbc.org


Rice cuts to refugee camps

High food prices here in the US means (for a lot of us middle class folks who have choices) we buy less of some of what we like, shop smarter, and eat out less. For the rest of the world, the cost of high food prices is much higher….refugees in camps in Thailand are having their rations cut (these were rations, not excesses!).  The following is an appeal received from friends in Thailand, put out by the Thai-Burma Border Consortium  (www.tbbc.org) which has provided for the refugee camps housing, at the moment 140,000+ people from Burma.  


Support refugees from Burma: put rice in the pot

Today, more than 140,000 refugees from Burma are living in nine camps along the Thailand Burma border.  Unlike most other situations around the world there is no United Nations-coordinating mechanism responsible for these refugees. The Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), a non-profit organisation, provides all of the food to these camps and must raise its own funds. Rice is the main ingredient of the refugees’ food basket, the price of which has been seriously affected by the global food crisis.

During 2008, rice prices have more than doubled. Unless more funds can be raised quickly to cover the increased cost, TBBC will have to cut the refugee food rations to as little as 50% of the international minimum standard required to sustain life.  World attention is currently focused on the victims of cyclone Nargis and once again, we are witnessing the incapacity and unwillingness of the military junta to respond to the needs of its own people.

The people of Burma have suffered decades of human rights abuses, civil war and economic mismanagement and for 24 years, TBBC has been providing assistance to those who have had no choice but to flee to the border.  These refugees must not be forgotten. Before fleeing to Thailand, they suffered serious human rights abuses including forced labour, rape and torture and most have lost everything they owned as their villages were destroyed by the army. The refugees from Burma are confined to camps but if TBBC cannot support them with adequate food, they will be compelled to leave the camps, risking arrest, abuse, exploitation, and possible deportation back to Burma. We can expect to see serious malnutrition and health problems within a matter of weeks. Children, pregnant women and the elderly are most at risk. We are appealing to all traditional donors including governments to help us through this crisis. But we are also challenging ourselves as staff, friends and families. We believe that the huge network of family and friends we all have will make a difference.

We are setting ourselves a target of Thai baht 1.6 million (USD 50,000, EUR 32,000, GBP 25,000) by the end of June. That would be enough to provide rice to 1000 refugees to the end of 2008.  A contribution of just baht 300 (US$10, EUR 6, GBP 5) would cover the cost of rice for one refugee for a whole month, baht 1,800 (US$60, EUR36, GBP30) for the entire second half of 2008.

We can make a difference – even a little means a lot.

Donations can be made online at their web site:  www.tbbc.org for those who are interested.