Wednesday, November 10, 2010

081. Burma (Myanmar): fighting erupts in Karen State

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 081 | Wed 10 Nov 2010 BURMA (MYANMAR): FIGHTING ERUPTS IN KAREN STATE Burma's Kachin and Chin peoples are around 90 percent Christian, while the larger Karenni and Karen groups are up to 40 percent Christian. The Burmese Buddhist majority has long persecuted these peoples on racial and religious grounds. Consequently the long-suffering minorities who live in the hills around Burma's periphery want autonomy so they can maintain their culture and worship in liberty. Meanwhile the junta, promoting ethnic Burman and Buddhist nationalism and supremacy, covets the ethnic groups' lands for logging, hydro-electric power, jade mining and the like. And the regime is not averse to 'ethnic cleansing'. As noted in last week's Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin, the sole purpose of Burma's fraudulent 7 November elections was to legitimise the regime and provide it with a mandate to impose its will. (See: RLPB 080, 'Burma (Myanmar): Christians at risk of post-election violence'.) Anticipating the hostilities, leaders from six of Burma's largest armed ethnic groups met in the Thai-Burma town of Mae Hong Son on Tuesday 4 November and agreed to join forces if any one of them should come under attack after the 7 November elections. Exiled Burmese media 'Mizzima' reported: 'The alliance comprises ceasefire groups, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), New Mon State Party (NMSP) and Shan State Army North (SSA-N); and non-ceasefire groups, the Karen National Union (KNU), Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) and Chin National Front (CNF). It named Kachin Independence Army (KIA) chief Major General N-Ban La Aung as its chairman.' The Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) -- officially allied to the regime -- has long been exploited by the junta as a proxy force to fight the mostly Christian Karen National Union (KNU). However, splits have emerged in the DKBA ranks over the issue of being assimilated into the centrally controlled Border Guard Force (BGF). Burma Campaign UK reports that on 7 November a rebel faction of the DKBA occupied Myawaddy Town in Karen State on the border with Thailand. They claimed to be defending civilians who were being threatened by the Burmese Army and being forced to vote for the pro-regime Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). At 9 am on Monday 8 November the Burmese Army began shelling DKBA positions in Myawaddy, sending some 20,000 Karen fleeing across the Thai border. Fighting between the DKBA (which is rejecting the election results) and the Burmese Army also erupted at Payathonzu. Significantly the DKBA, with the support of Mon fighters and defecting Border Guard Forces (BGF), has secured control of Three Pagodas Pass, a strategic border crossing between Burma and Thailand. The KNU has vowed to assist their former foe, the DKBA, in its battle against the junta should the need arise. After discussions with the regime, Thai authorities agreed to return the refugees. By Wednesday 10 November, most of the refugees had returned to Myawaddy which is now in the hands of the Burmese Army. These skirmishes have the potential to escalate into full-blown civil war. Should that happen, the junta's goal would doubtless be either ethnic cleansing or total subjugation of the minorities. In November 2008 the junta, which has nuclear ambitions, reportedly signed a Memorandum of Understanding with North Korea, formalising military co-operation. While heavily-invested China welcomed the 7 November 2010 elections as 'a step forward', Burma's other neighbours, Thailand and India, have remained silent, preferring to distance themselves from Burma's 'internal affairs' (read: human rights abuses). Abandoned by their neighbours and imperilled at home, the Christian peoples of Burma desperately need our prayers. PLEASE PRAY SPECIFICALLY THAT GOD WILL: * draw his imperilled people close to him that they may know peace in his loving presence. * hear their prayers and intervene in Burma to bring an end to decades of terror and bloodshed, for the sake of his Body and for the glory of his own holy name. Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; protect me from those who rise up against me, deliver me from those who work evil, and save me from bloodthirsty men. (Psalm 59:1,2 ESV) * give Burma's Christian leaders great spiritual wisdom, discernment, authority and strength, that they might provide spiritual wisdom, comfort and direction -- not only to the Lord's people but to all Burmese caught up in these challenging times. International Day of Prayer (IDOP) for the Persecuted Church: 14 November 2010 ~~~~ SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE ---------------------------------------------------------------------- BURMA: FIGHTING ERUPTS IN KAREN STATE Burma's ethnic Kachin and Chin peoples (90 percent Christian) and the Karreni and Karen groups (40 percent Christian) want autonomy, primarily to maintain their culture and to worship in liberty. However, the Burman Buddhist junta wants total control of their lands and resources, and saw the 7 November elections giving it that mandate. On polling day a military faction opposed to the junta occupied the Karen town, Myawaddy, on the Thai border, to defend its citizens threatened by the junta and being forced to vote for a pro-regime party. The Burmese Army responded with heavy artillery, forcing some 20,000 Karen to flee into Thailand. Thai officials have since forced the refugees back to Myawaddy, now occupied by the junta. Civil war looms. Please pray for the Church in Burma.