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Archive for the ‘War in Burma’ Category

Shan Medical Mission (Parts 1 and 2)

In War in Burma on April 19, 2009 at 2:33 am

shan-h-3

 

“In Shanland: Medical Mission (Parts 1 and 2),” the latest video in the series In Shanland, shot in the war zone of Burma, by Antonio Garceffo is now available on youtube.com

 

Antonio Graceffo accompanies a volunteer medical mission on a visit to SSA headquarters in Loi Tailang, where they render much needed medical aid to the war orphans and abandoned children. Hear “Steve” an aid worker, with nearly twenty years of Burma experience explain the conflict. “What these children need most is the one thing no one can give them right now, freedom for their country.” Steve goes on to say, “I don’t believe it is wrong for them to fight for their country, to even kill for their country, but …even in the act of killing, you can be motivated by love.” Steve applies his life philosophy to the children of the conflict, “The most powerful force, historically is not hate, and it’s not brutality, which this regime is known for, it’s love.”

 

Watch it for free on youtube.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TO28ivXBD0Y

 

 

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the host “Martial Arts Odyssey,” a web TV show which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries.

 

His books are available on amazon.com

Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com

 

Join him on facebook.com

His website is www.speakingadventure.com

 

This episode was edited by Antonio Garceffo.

 

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In Shanland: At the Battle Front

In War in Burma on April 15, 2009 at 12:23 pm

shanf3by Antonio Garceffo Host, Antonio Gracefo, takes us to the front lines of the world’s longest running war. He explains the history of the conflict and how the genocide is being fueled by the drugs trade. He joins a patrol of Shan soldiers, sent out to prevent the SPDC from killing Shan families who are returning to their village after celebrating Shan children’s day. Meet two young war orphans, and a woman who had to abandon her four-year-old child when she fled her village. Now, nearly ten months pregnant, it seems her second child is afraid to be born. Watch it for free on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fiEUuqoWx4 Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the host “Martial Arts Odyssey,” a web TV show which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries. His books are available on amazon.com Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com Join him on facebook.com His website is http://www.speakingadventure.com This episode was edited by Antonio Garceffo. SSA,brooklyn,monk,brooklynmonk,Antonio,Graceffo,shan,state,army,tai,burma,Burmese,refugee,displaced,war,thai,Thailand,thai,shanland,junta,shanland,rebel

New Burma Video: Grandfather With One Leg

In War in Burma on April 11, 2009 at 7:06 am

 “In Shanland: Grandfather With One Leg,” 1_12_2008-11_08-am_0001the latest video in the series In Shanland, shot in the war zone of Burma, by Antonio Garceffo is now available on youtube.com http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-JVx8CcK_w In this new episode, Antonio Graceffo interviews an aged Shan man who was captured by the Burmese SPDC forces, held and tortured for four years, and then released to a life of slave labor. The Burmese soldiers used him as a human mine detector and porter, forcing him to walk in front of them through the minefields. Eventually, his luck ran out. He stepped on a mine and his leg was blown off. He lay for six days, suffering in the jungle, where the Burmese soldiers left him. Eventually, he was found by a Shan State Army patrol, who took him to the SSA base at Loi Tailang, where he lives today, playing grandfather to the many refugee children. Inside the war zone of Burma, under protection of the Shan State rebel army, Host, Antonio Graceffo interviews refugees, soldiers, civilians, all victims of the junta that rules Burma. The Shan are one of Burma’s many ethnic minorities being subjected to genocide at the hands of heir own government. Watch it for free on youtube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-JVx8CcK_w Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He is the host “Martial Arts Odyssey,” a web TV show which traces his ongoing journey through Asia, learning martial arts in various countries. His books are available on amazon.com Contact him: Antonio@speakingadventure.com Join him on facebook.com His website is http://www.speakingadventure.com This episode was edited by Antonio Garceffo. SSA,brooklyn,monk,brooklynmonk,Antonio,Graceffo,shan,state,army,tai,burma,Burmese,refugee,displaced,war,thai,Thailand,thai,shanland,junta,shanland,rebel

Letter From a Burmese Exile

In War in Burma on December 21, 2008 at 4:59 pm

Former Burmese Freedom Fighter Cries for his Stricken Land

By Antonio Graceffo

 

“I am not that happy at all in (The name of his new country has been deleted for anonymity purposes.) but Freedom I love this, and I want all Burmese people, anyone who is living in Burma, any ethnic, I want them to see and feel freedom like here.”

Kyaw, an exiled Burmese resistance fighter.

 

His wife is dead. His parents and siblings are missing. His country is gone. Kyaw (not his real name) is stranded forever, in the purgatory of a foreign culture, where he struggles to raise his daughters, learn a new language and come to terms with his heart-wrenching past.

 

Driven from their homes, murdered, raped, tortured at the hands of their own government, the ethnic minorities of Burma: Shan, Karen, Karenni, Pa-O, Lahu, Lisu, Rohinga, and others have been suffering for sixty years. In the face of genocide it is easy to forget the suffering of the country’s majority, the ethnic Burmans.

 

In 1988, after the government slaughtered pro-democracy protestors in the streets, a group of ethnic Burman students, including young Kyaw, formed an organization called ABSDF All Burman Student Democratic Front. They took up weapons and fled to the jungle. Many were welcomed into the ethnic armies, particularly the Karen. The government reaction was so violent, that within a few years, the Karen would lose their headquarters. The Shan State Army would be reduced by 90%, and all of the ABSDF fighters would be either killed, captured, or driven over the border into Thailand, where many still live, working illegally. The lucky ones became refugees and were resettled in a third country.

 

Lucky to be alive, they suffer the complete loss of everything they ever knew or called home.

 

Because of the videos I published on youtube about my time in Shan State

http://ca.youtube.com/results?search_query=antonio+graceffo+shan+state+&search_type=&aq=f

 

and the articles I published, I receive a lot of email from Shan and Burmese exiles all over the world. This most recent one was particularly moving. I wanted to share it with the world. Let the world be reminded of how bad things are inside of Burma. And let those of us who work on the conflict, with the various ethnic groups, remember that ethnic Burmans are also victims.

 

Here is the letter from Kyaw, with some editing of his English, for readability, and some author’s notes I interjected, for those unfamiliar with the details of Burma’s civil war, the longest running armed conflict on the planet.

 

Hi, Mr. Antonio,

 

I left my family when I was 14, studying at year Eight in 1988. So, I hadn’t finished school yet. Even if I finished, and if I stayed in Burma, I have no Idea what kind of job I would get. I lived in Shan State capital city, called Taunggyi. It is the third biggest city in Burma, second is Mandaly, and the capital was Rangoon.

 

(Author’s note: The SPDC, Burmese government, moved the capital to a secret, undisclosed mountain location in 2007. Rangoon was changed to Yangon, but it is still considered to be the real capital by all but the junta themselves. The junta also changed the country name from Burma to Myanmar. But no one outside recognizes this change.)

 

After I left home I never saw my brothers or my parents anymore, and still haven’t had contact with them. So, I left it, as this is life, and I am lucky that I am still alive. After I left home I was in ABSDF( All Burmese Students Democratic Front ) for 14 years. In those years, we fought with the Burma army often and a lots of my friends died in the war. We didn’t stay close to the Shan State Army, but we often crossed Shan State armed areas. We lived in the Pa-O area, which is part of Shan state, Karanni state, and Karan state.

 

(Author’s note: The Pa-O are one of the smallest ethnic groups in Burma. They live primarily in Shan State and had their own resistance army, until the major onslaught from the SPDC nearly crushed the resistance. Since then, the armed Pa-O have been absorbed into Shan State Army. The SSA commander, Col. Yawd Serk has a policy of ethnic equality and welcomes all ethnicities who live in Shan State. When I was with the SSA I met soldiers who were Pa-O, Lahu, Karen, and even Chinese speaking soldiers who I had to translate for.)

 

After the Karen (KNLA) fell in 1995-96 our ABSDF organization also collapsed and our base fell in to Burmese government hands, because we are dependent on living with the Karen.

 

(Author’s note: One of the biggest blows to the rebellion was when the Karen lost their headquarters. It was overrun by government forces and the army took years to regroup. The ABSDF were primarily college students from the big cities. They often didn’t know how to survive in the jungle and were very dependent on the help given them by the tribal people.)

 

Karan and Kachin State where the biggest and strongest organizations in Burma. Also Shan was powerful in around 1970 and 1980 but the Burmese military crossed the whole Shan State with powerful regiments, burning and killing whatever they saw. After that, the Shan army was not strong enough anymore.

 

The last, biggest Karan State fell in 1995. Our revolution groups were no more strong enough, but just small groups, still fighting for their homeland, and also ABSDF

 

(Author’s note: The ethnic soldiers were and are still fighting in the very place where they were born, where their parents, their children and their ancestors grew up. There is that feeling of defending the homeland. Among the ethnic soldiers, there is a feeling that the ABSDF were outsiders. Yes, they also opposed the Burmese government, and they were willing to pick up a gun. But there was still a distrust of outsiders.)

 

The small groups continued to fight along the Thai –Burma border, but just small groups.

.

I still support AB and still work for it. I am Burmese and I can speak a little Shan, Karen, and Pa-O language. I can also speak and read Thai well. But now I am trying to learn the English language. It’s very hard for me.

 

I am not that happy at all in (The name of his new country has been deleted for anonymity purposes.) but Freedom I love this, and I want all Burmese people, anyone who is living in Burma, any ethnic, I want them to see and feel freedom like here.

 

I feel sad about Burma.

 

I have two daughters and my wife died after we arrived here with stomach cancer. So, I live with my 2 daughters 11 and 9 years old. However far apart from Burma, I am always looking back and helping when I can.

 

I am so proud of you had helped Burma land. I wish you always remember Burma land. I always know Burma is very beautiful country and Burma has everything more than Thailand.

 

Just because of the government, all Burmese people have been sick, and a sick life is hell.

 

(Author’s note: Please say a prayer for the people of Shan State and for all of the people of Burma.)

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. He spent several months, in and out of Burma, documenting the light of the Shan people. Those stories have been widely published and readily available through a google search. His is the author of five books, including, The Monk from Brooklyn, which are all available at amazon.com.

See his videos on youtube. http://ca.youtube.com/results?search_query=antonio+graceffo&search_type=&aq=f

His website is speakingadventure.com

Join him on facebook.com

Contact Antonio: antonio@speakingadventure.com

 

Antonio Graceffo Wanted for Opposing the Junta

In War in Burma on November 18, 2008 at 6:18 pm

 

Wanted for Opposing the Junta

Burma’s ruling junta, the SPDC, uses disinformation and modern technology to issues a wanted order against Antonio Graceffo.

By Antonio Graceffo

 

A friend who engages in cross-border aid activities in the genocide afflicted war-zone of Burma sent me this link, which, in Burmese, is the equivalent of an old wild-west wanted posted, with my photo on it.

 

http://www.myanmarnargis.org/content/view/40/5/

 

If you click over to the poster, the Burmese characters may not come up on your computer, unless you have installed the appropriate software. At a glance, the link appears to be a website of the KNU/KNLA, the ethnic Karen resistance group, featured in the film, “Rambo IV.” The site implies that I am wanted by the rebels, which makes no sense, since the only crime I have committed, if in fact it is a crime, is supporting the rebels.

 

I sent the link to one of the anti-junta groups I am in communication with, and they verified that it was a proxy site, a fake site, created by the Burmese SPDC junta, to pass on disinformation and create disunity and infighting within the resistance groups. Fortunately, most people working on the Burma issue don’t trust anything written in Burmese. Each of the tribes has its own language and alphabet. Most of them are smart enough to use English on their websites to garner international support. The junta, it appears, is not that smart. But, since General Ne Win forcibly closed all of Burma’s universities, to prevent smart people from meeting and exchanging political ideas, it is no wonder that they are slipping intellectually.

 

Of those few SPDC officials who speak English and know how to use a computer, many studied abroad. Some studied on developmental scholarships, paid by foreign governments and aid groups, to help raise the general education in what was once the richest and best educated country in southeast Asia. The application procedures, within Burma, are so stilted that often only junta supporters can apply. The education freely given to them, to help the people, becomes another tool of repression against the uneducated and underfed populace.

 

Here is the translation of the wanted poster. It was prepared by an exiled Burmese intellectual, who had to flee Burma and seek asylum in another country. He hates the junta with a passion and supports the resistance groups.

 

Translators note: I got your reply, Antonio, that the KNU has cleared your name and so we cannot sell you by the kilo to them.

 

Translation:

 

[[article begins; double parentheses [[   ]] are the translators; single parentheses ( ) are the original author’s]]

 

Wanted  [[photo of Graceffo]]

Antonia Grace-fawt (former Marine) Italy Citizen

 

[[no author’s name seen]]

 

The Former Marine Who Would Combine Military Forces with Terrorists.

 

1-11-2008

 

To the armed terrorists of KNU, SSA, KNPP who are based in Thailand’s Chiangmai City and are present along the Thai-Myanmar border  —–  [[there is an]] American & 2 other foreigners who are teaching them Close Combat and how to set up mines and traps. 

 

It is learned that a former US Marine Italian race, American citizen, Antonio Grace-fawt and two other foreigners, a total of 3, had finished discussions with KNU officials about entering and moving around the KNU 2nd Brigade region (Toungoo District).

The aforementioned Antonio group on (08 October 18) came via Chiangmai to Mae Sot. At Mae Sot, they met the new General Secretary Naw See Ra Pho Sein      [[I’m just transcribing them phonetically; might not be correct since it is a 2nd or 3rd transliteration]]

KNU Tactical Commander Saw Beelah Sein, 2nd Brigade Commander Ah See and discussed about procedures on how to get help from foreign groups and how to  transform the defensive guerilla warfare into offensive guerilla warfare within the KNU areas. It is learned that they discussed plans drawn by the KNU, SSA, KNPP Joint Military Movement Committee and how to put in practice the military tactical procedures. 

 

[[will make my own paragraph here. original writer is having verbal diarrhea and does not appear to know how to make paragraphs]]

 

KNU 5th Brigade Baw Kyaw Hair [[again, this is just a transliteration and probably has original errors    SPDC writers are notorious for mispronouncing non-Burmese names… take, e.g., your name]]  said that in the areas under his responsibility, the 5th Brigade area, (Papun District), the supply routes for weapons and food for 2nd Brigade had been blocked. He also refused to take responsibility for the security and safe passage of Antonio Grace-fawt’s group if they travel from 5th Brigade area to 2nd Brigade area.

 

5th Brigade Commander  Baw Kyaw Hair, on his part, was dissatisfied with how the present congress has appointed a central group in which General Tamlabaw’s sons and daughters have important posts in the KNU.   [[Baw Kyaw Hair’s ]] group  favors having a ceasefire with  the present military government and exchange arms for peace [[this is an SPDC phrase for complete surrendering of one’s forces and one’s weapons to SPDC —  very indicative of an SPDC author ]]

 

[[my paragraphing]] Another brigade that is similar in spirit to Baw Kyaw Hair is 6th Brigade.   It is heard that 6th Brigade Commander Hsarmi is dissatisfied with Tamlabaw’s circle of  family  and friends.  Therefore Antonio Grace-fawt’s group is unable to travel through Baw Kyaw Hair’s area and is making preparations to travel through the Mae Hong Son KNPP’s area to reach 2nd Brigade area.  On (22-10-08) Antonio and group departed from Mae Son [[sic; I think it is a typo]] to Mae Hong Son. 

 

Antonio Grawfawt ‘s group [[sic, another typo by crazy SPDC author]]  is surely going to have to run and escape for their lives as they go through the Armed Forces’ Offensives [[but ]] it is more certain they will die violent deaths.  [[ i.e., it is more certain they will die violently rather than run and escape with their lives ]]

 

[[end of article]]

 

Further translators notes:

 

It is now evident from the author himself that you were never a wanted man by the KNU.  The article is very poorly written and has sloppy composition. 

 

I hear you, Antonio, that you replied it is not true about you meeting the KNU since on the dates mentioned you were out of country. It is funny SPDC is making up all these lies. 

But why? 

 

“Wanted” does not mean by the KNU. It means Wanted by SPDC but not explicitly mentioned, only by inference. 

 

And it is not true one faction of KNU hates you. It is just that one faction is said to be discontent with Tamlabaw and therefore will not allow you safe passage. 

 

It is just the age-old SPDC tactics of playing off one brigade commander against another brigade commander and tempting them to surrender to the government, thus scoring propaganda and psychological victories and gradually defeating the KNU. 

No faction in KNU hates you, it is only the author who wishes you evil.  

 

Buddha has been famously quoted about not returning evil for evil. Our Monk once taught me that if you send me a package [of evil wishes] and I decline to accept it, then the evil goes back to its sender.  Not that I wish the sender any evil; I just simply will not take it and so the sender just gets what his Karma dictates.

 

What shall we do to protect against the evil efforts of SPDC to discredit each of us, and set one against the other, and tempt us into surrendering. Such things have happened time and again, and it appears the 5th and 6th brigade commanders, if this is true, are wishing to surrender and that they are discontent with Gen. Tamlabaw. 

How true could this be? If it is not true, is it possible for the enemy to make it come true and create fear, suspicion, and hatred amongst the KNU? How do we eliminate this and help unify KNU? Perhaps as outsiders with no connections to any faction, we can act as mediators and help make peace. Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall unify the Forces and Defeat the enemy.  

 

It is sad that during Gen. Bo Mya’s time, his Christian officers were said to have gotten all the promotions and benefits and the Buddhists did not fare well. SPDC fanned these flames in the early 90’s and by 1994 or 1995 were able to split KNU and form a quisling group, the DKBA — which made it possible to find a way to invade the KNU headquarters, their stronghold, in Manerplaw and conquer that area. 

 

Then, in the last two years, they were able to splinter off other KNU commanders, even the Reverend Timothy, who wanted to negotiate a separate surrender.  Now it seems they are working on the 5th and 6th Brigade Commanders. 

 

Oh, God, when and how can we turn the tide? 

 

Antonio Graceffo begs you to please say a prayer for the people of Shan State.

 

Antonio Graceffo is a martial arts and adventure author living in Asia. His book, The Monk from Brooklyn, is available at amazon.com. See his vieos on youtub.

http://ca.youtube.com/results?search_query=antonio+graceffo&search_type=&aq=f

 

His website is speakingadventure.com

Join him on facebook.com

Contact Antonio: antonio@speakingadventure.com

 

 

 

 

Nursing the Shan

In War in Burma on August 30, 2008 at 2:10 am

Burma Shan Video: Porter and Human Shield

In War in Burma on August 30, 2008 at 2:04 am

The Plight of the Shan People of Burma

In War in Burma on August 30, 2008 at 1:58 am

By Antonio Graceffo
Genocide, Torture, and Ignorance: The Shan are dying and the world takes no notice.
“When I fled my village in Burma I had to leave my baby behind. She was too small to survive the jungle.” says Nang Ga a 25 year old Shan tribe’s woman.
She hid in the jungle after the State Peace and Development Council, (SPDC) soldiers of the Burmese army demanded that one member from every family be forced to work as porters or be killed.
With tears filled eyes Ga says; “The SPDC said we weren’t allowed to go into the rice fields anymore. How could we survive if we couldn’t grow food?.. They told us if we ran away they would shoot us!”
Many westerners have never heard of the Shan, even though they are the largest ethnic minority group in Burma with a population of approximately seven million. In a brutal war that has been going on for nearly sixty years the Burmese junta occupy Shan ethnic villages to control the rural populations. Rape, torture, murder, slavery and forced relocation are common. Parents are often killed or separated from their children, leaving tens of thousands of orphans living in refugee camps in Thailand or IDP camps in Burma. The Shan are not eligible for refugee status as a result most work illegally as servants, laborers or prostitutes. Children, twelve years old or younger, eke out an existence as undocumented migrant workers in Thailand.
When the SPDC raided her village, Nan Ga’s husband, 21 year old Non Geet, was away from home, serving in the Shan State Army (SSA), a tribal defense force, battling for the independence of Shan State.
Nan Ga hid in the jungle for two months before being found by a SSA battalion. She was reunited with her husband at the rebel armies’ headquarters of Loi Tai Leng.
Nang Ga and Non Geet are among roughly 3,000 internally displaced people (IDPs) who have taken refuge at Loi Tai Leng. The base which is set high upon the ridgeline, on the Burmese side of the border with Thailand, is surrounded by minefields and guarded by several thousand rebel soldiers.
Inside the villagers are trying to rebuild their shattered lives. They have built a meeting hall school, a temple, several restaurants, and a school. The children are educated in both English and their native tongue to keep their cultural traditions
Nang Ga says “Life is better here than in our village. The SSA gives us food. In Shan State we had to pay for school, but we were too poor. In Loi Tai Leng school is free.”

The young parents have no news whether their child is alive or dead. The villages don’t have telephones, and visiting the child would mean weeks of walking through hostile enemy territory.
Non Geet has never seen his child (he was with the Shan State Army at the time).
He says; “She would be four years old now.”
Nang Ga is expecting a second child dreams that someday their two children will be reunited to share their bamboo hut.
Motioning toward her pregnant belly she says “This baby will go to school and live in safety. And she will never be hungry.”
When the school bell rings for lunch break the children file out into the street and wait patiently in line for their basic issue of food, as they do three times per day. They are given rice topped off with watery vegetables. They only eat meat once a week.

Kawn Wan, 20 years old, is an English teacher at Loi Tai Lang. He learned to speak English after coming to the rebel base in 2001.
In his first English poem Kawn Wan describes his parent’s murder by the SPDC, “The sound of a gun took my family away.”

He remembers when his parents’ fateful day with vivid detail. Kawn Wan believes he has relatives who are still alive inside of Shan State.

He says, “I haven’t heard anything about them since I came to Loi Tai Lang. They left the village to look for food. Some people told me the SPDC caught them.”

Kawn Wan has lived half of life as an orphan. Now he looks after the 197 boys who live at the dormitory at Loi Tai Leng giving them the care he never had.
Pointing to two young boys who live at the dormitory Kawn Wan says, “They are orphans and have been here for about four years,” shaking his head sadly he says, “They don’t remember anything, not even the name of their village.”
The orphans, refugees and soldiers have formed a new community at the rebel camp while the war in Burma rages around them. In 2005 the base came under attack. For forty-five days the inhabitants were subjected to constant artillery barrages and frontal assaults by the SPDC and United Wa State Army. The Wa are another ethnic minority group who have come to a cease fifre agreement with the SPDC and earn their money from drug trafficking. Loi Tai Leng survived the attack but the memories of the battle are ever present in the minds of the IDP’s at the camp. Things are quiet for now but the villagers know this could change overnight.
The Shan people are part of the Tai ethnic group, which includes the Lao and the Thai. The Shan feel themselves to be the historical cousins of the Thai. The soldiers were given a day off to celebrate the 80th birthday of the king of Thailand. In every Shan home, there is a Buddhist shrine depicting images of the current Thai King, His Majesty Rama IX and the ancient Thai King Naresuen, who helped the Shan king fight against the Burmese.
The King of Thailand is credited with providing most of the outside aid to the Shan. Unfortunately, to maintain good relations with Burma, Thailand cannot officially or openly endorse the Shan resistance.
Tun Yee is a young Shan soldier. Yee says; “I am not sure if I am twenty or twenty one. It seems like a long time ago. My father died when I was very young. When I was about ten, the SPDC attacked our village when my mother was in the rice fields”.

The monks who lived in his village helped Tun Yee escape.
He says, “We walked through the jungle for about a month.”

Tun Yee lived illegally in a Shan temple as a monk in Thailand until he was fifteen and he moved to Loi Tai Lang, to attend school for the first time in his life.

Tun Yee doesn’t know if his mother is alive. Recently, a newly arrived refugee told Tun Yee that a Shan woman, bearing the same name as his mother, and who also lost her son, was living in the city of Fang, in Northern Thailand.

The soldiers had to restrain the impetuous youth, to prevent him from running across the Thai border where he was sure to be arrested. Once again, the monks intervened. The head Abbot of the temple at Loi Tai Lang ordained Tun Yee as a ten-day monk. His head was shaved and he donned the sacred robes of a novice. Together, with the head Abbot, he made the long journey by car, first to Chiang Mai, and then Fang. Along the way, they were stopped numerous times by Thai military, but the Abbot talked them through all of the checkpoints, before reaching their destination.

Yee says with tear filled eyes, “It wasn’t her. I don’t even remember what she looks like. When I close my eyes, I try to imagine her face, but I just don’t see it anymore.”
At eighteen years of age Hsai Leurn is the youngest teacher at the school. Hsai Leurn is a budding artist. He has drawn portraits of the Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi and has learned to sing the song, “Freedom from Fear.”
Aung San Suu Kyi, the brave woman who the west has chosen as the face of the conflict in Burma, won the only free election in recent Burmese history, and has been under house arrest ever since. Her party, National League for Democracy, is extremely popular among Burmese in exile. Inside of Burma, however, open support for the NLD or the mere mention of the name, Aung San Suu Kyi, could be dangerous business, resulting in arrest, torture, or execution. Her biography, “Freedom from Fear,” has become a kind of Bible for Burmese who dream of a brighter future. The book inspired a song by the same name, which has become a mantra.
Freedom from Fear could be interpreted this way. If you can release yourself from fear, you can have anything. Or maybe, it means that when the Burmese have political and spiritual freedom, they will also have freedom from the fear which rules their everyday lives.
In the free countries, when small children sleep, their parents leave a light on, so the children won’t be scared. In Shanland, turning on the lights would give the enemy a target for artillery fire. Only a free election, not a nightlight, could free the Shan children from fear.
Hsai Lern says; “We respect Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD). Although She has never made any official statement regarding the independence of Shan State, many Shan support Aung San Suu Kyi. Whether or not they gain independence, the Shan will probably have a better life under a free democracy than under a dictatorship.
Kawn Wan says, “The NLD have never visited us in the jungle. They cannot help us. They cannot even help themselves… You foreigners, when you aren’t happy with something, you go and change it. You protest and fight, but here in Burma, it is impossible for us. I want the American people to know that we have a country, but we cannot live. We have no human rights. The government doesn’t do anything for us. We want the international community to tell the SPDC to give us democracy. We want to live freely like other countries. In America and democratic countries they have freedom and they have rights. They can use their rights to help us. When I lived in Shan State I didn’t know about democracy. When I went to school I learned about free society and human rights… Now I want to use this knowledge to help my people.”
Adventure and martial arts author, Antonio Graceffo has lived in Asia for nearly years, publishing four books, available on amazon.com and several hundred articles in magazines and websites around the world. He has worked as a consultant and writer for shows on the History and Discovery Channel and appears on camera in Digging for
the Truth, and Human Weapon. Antonio is host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey.” Antonio was embedded with the Shan State rebel army in Burma, documenting human rights abuses, and doing a film and print project to raise awareness of the Shan people. To see
all of his videos about martial arts, Burma and other countries:
http://youtube.com/results?search_query=antonio+graceffo&search=Search
Antonio is the author of four books available on amazon.com Contact
him Antonio@speakingadventure.
com see his website
http://www.speakingadventure.com

Suffering Continues in Burma

In War in Burma on July 19, 2008 at 3:07 am

 

Article Submission: the

 

The Suffering Continues in Burma

By Antonio Graceffo

 

New figures from the UN have the death toll, possibly, a 216,000.

 

The junta still hasn’t allowed any aid workers into the country. They allowed two plane loads of food and medicines in but then immediately commandeered everything. Now the US refuses to send anymore aid, unless aid workers are allowed to accompany the materials and see to their distribution.

 

A relief team leader had this to say about sending material into Burma without aid workers to look after it. “The dictators of Burma continue to directly attack their own people and in the case of the cyclone provided no warning, nor did they provide any immediate response to help people in need. An ongoing challenge will be to ensure that relief materials and funds go to those in need and are not diverted by the dictators. We will be sending help through the network of individuals and churches that we have now in Burma and we will be relying on them to account for and report on the relief assistance.”

 

Another aid worker said it even more succinctly. “You can be sure that only pennies on the dollar will be given to the people.”

 

Leading general, Than Schwe (who should die slowly), hasn’t been seen since last Saturday. He even refused to meet with or even talk with the UN by telephone. In the face of all of the insanity involved in refusing aid, the junta marches forward, determined to hold a referendum, the result of which will basically keep the current government in power in perpetuity.

 

Far from the watchful eye of the world’s media and aid workers seeking to help cyclone victims in and around Yangon, the SPDC (Burmese army) launched attacks against the Karen ethnic minority people. They burned homes, destroyed villages and attacked refugee camps (IDPs).

 

I tried to imagine something more horrible than launching a military strike against people in the wake of such a terrible disaster, but I couldn’t.

 

When asked what steps the junta had taken to help their own people, an aid worker had this to say. “There is no plan of action internally. There is limited infrastructure. The military is working only limitedly. The constitution will be voted on next week and must be monitored by force. There was not even a forklift at the international airport to take off initial supplies from Thailand.”

 

Another aid worker explained that so much of the suffering was avoidable. “The military are making this so Much worse. This is a textbook example of how not to respond to a disaster. They had 48 hour warning from India, yet they didn’t warn the people, especially not in the Irrawaddy Delta, the worst hit area. Now they are delaying the vitally needed aid agency workers by placing conditions on their work and not giving them unfettered access to the worst affected areas.”

 

 

France has demanded that the UN enact a byline which gives the UN the right to enter a country and render aid, without permission, if there is a major catastrophe and the local government refuses aid. Basically, the UN has the right to enter Burma and save lives in spite of the wishes of the generals.

 

I know from my own experience with 911 that in a crisis, more good people surface than bad. People forget their former problems with each other and they help, they simply help because it is the right thing to do. Probably 90% of the communities who donated food, money, clothes, and medicine to New York were poorer than New York. But they didn’t care. When a catastrophe effects others, you need only ask yourself, “What if that were my family, my wife, my children? What would I want others to do for me?” The answers are clear. You have to help.

 

In the last forty-eight hours I have received a steady stream of emails from people asking if I could get them into Burma and asking where and how to volunteer or send money. God bless them all.

 

Strong words of support have come from some unlooked for corners. China, who vetoed the UN proposal for forced aid in Darfur and Burma, is now asking the generals to open up and accept western aid.

 

George Bush, who I wouldn’t normally think of as a humanitarian said, in a quote in the Economic Times,  “Our message is to the military rulers: Let the US come to help you, help the people. Our hearts go out to the people of Burma. We want to help them deal with this terrible disaster. At the same time, of course, we want them to live in a free society,”

 

To my knowledge, this has been the first major statement, by a US politician which hints at forcing the junta to allow democracy in Burma.

 

An article in the Irish Times said, “President Bush urged Burma to allow US damage assessment teams into the country while at a ceremony Tuesday, where he signed legislation to give a Congressional Gold Medal to Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest in Burma.”

 

Look at your watch, wait five minutes. Someone just died in Burma. Most of the deaths which will happen over the next two weeks will be completely preventable if aid could get in. One aid organization said they are trying to partner with organization already inside the country. Even aid organizations with permanent offices in Yangon are being denied additional visas for more staff. And of course, there is the issue of planes cargos being confiscated when it arrives in Burma. 

”India & ASEAN are getting some in, maybe China, so far. The SPDC will skim what it can.” Explained one aid worker yesterday. But now it looks like even the trickle of aid coming from Asia is drying up.

If people in USA want to send money, where should they send it?

 

“So far I’ve recommended Mercy Corps here in Portland, they are v. effective in these situations, and US Campaign for Burma has a donate button on their site. World Vision is in country already but have religious baggage, also Save the Children is operating there already.” This was a quote from a noted Burma author. Luckily the Junta don’t read books, so she can maintain her anonymity.

 

Commenting on the impact of the cyclone, she said, “Mangrove destruction made this much worse, also siltation of Irrawaddy due to deforestation.”

 

The generals are known for selling off Burma’s timber, absolutely wrecking the environment. “The Generals are safe and sound in Naypyidaw.”

 

Last year, the incredibly superstitious junta moved the capital from Yangon to Naypyidaw.

“The date for the referendum was probably set by astrologers, so they are locked into that.” She went on to speculate, “But this could affect army unity — many have family in the Delta.”

 

It is highly likely that a very small percentage of Burmese soldiers actually support the junta. Most are conscripts and are themselves victims of brutality and abuse at the hands of their superiors. And of course, relief aid is not reaching the families of privates, only top ranking officers.

 

“We are now facing a health disaster with severe risk of malaria, cholera and other water born diseases. Over a million people spent their seventh night without good water or shelter last night.”

 

The long term effects of this disaster will be a staggering death toll.

 

Plese, say a prayer for the people of Burma.

 

 

Antonio Graceffo is a qualified Emergency Medical Technician, as well as an adventure and martial arts author living in Asia. He is the Host of the web TV show, “Martial Arts Odyssey,” Currently he is working inside of Shan State, documenting human rights abuses, doing a film and print project to raise awareness of the Shan people.  To see all of his videos about martial arts, Burma and other countries: http://youtube.com/results?search_query=antonio+graceffo&search=Search

Antonio is the author of four books available on amazon.com Contact him Antonio@speakingadventure.com

see his website http://speakingadventure.com/burma.htm

Antonio is self-funded and seeking sponsors. If you wish to contribute to the “In Shanland” film project, you can donate through paypal, through the Burma page of my website.

http://speakingadventure.com/burma.htm

 

 

 

New Shanland, Burma Video: A Summary of the Ethnic Conflict

In War in Burma on May 13, 2008 at 7:09 am

 

The Cyclone is new, but the Suffering is Old

 

By Antonio Graceffo

 

Rape, murder, forced labor, slavery, human mine detectors, torture, detention, mass execution: the sad life of the Shan ethnic minority.

 

Guest Producer Any To, of the United States, using my videos, photos and radio interviews, has created a summary video, explaining the suffering of the Shan minority people.

 

Watch it on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rrh7OjKCaPg

 

Please say a prayer for the victims of the cyclone and for the people of Shanland.

 

Antonio Graceffo has been embedded with the Shan State Army inside of Burma. This article is part of the “In Shanland” project. To raise awareness about the plight of the Shan people Antonio will release one print article and one video per week for a year. He is giving these media away for free to ensure that they will reach the largest audience. You can watch all of the Shan videos released to date on youtube.

http://ie.youtube.com/results?search_query=antonio+graceffo+shan+state+army&search_type=&search=Search

Antonio is self-funded. If you wish to contribute to the “In Shanland” film project, you can do so through paypal, through the Burma page of his website.

http://speakingadventure.com/burma.htm

 

Currently, Antonio is attending paramedic training in Manila, while waiting for word that he can return to Burma as part of a medical aid mission.

 

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