Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) party stood for national parliamentary elections inBurma/Myanmarfor the first time since the party was prevented from taking office in 1990. The NLD won 43 of the 44 seats which they contested – including all 13 NLD women who contested the by-elections. Aung San Suu Kyi reported won her seat with 82% of the vote. Another successful female NLD candidate, Daw Phyu Phyu Thinn is the leader of the NLD’s social-aid outreach program and had recently spent 4 months in prison for her work with the NLD.
This represents a small proportion of the 664 seats in the Burmese parliament. The next national elections are scheduled for 2015 and now that the rulers and military know how popular that NLD are, it will be very interesting to see what further reforms occur in the meantime.
Act for Peace has been engaged in community development and humanitarian programs with partners inBurma/Myanmarand with Burmese refugees for over two decades.
Alistair Gee, the agency’s executive director, returned recently from visiting the refugee camps in his role as chair of the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, which provides food and shelter to 138,000 Burmese refugees.
Alistair told The Transit Lounge that the recent changes are very welcome and provide hope of further democratic reform and resolution of ethnic conflicts. That said, since the 2010 parliamentary elections the number of people displaced by the armed conflicts inBurma/Myanmarhas actually increased to the highest levels on record. So while there is new hope and a new peace process, the realisation of democracy and peace is far from assured, he told us.
Burma’s military and non-state armed groups have used antipersonnel mines consistently throughout the country’s long-running civil war. These landmines are concentrated in border areas from decades-old struggles for autonomy by ethnic minorities. Act for Peace supports a prosthetic workshop in Karen State, Burma, where mine survivors have constructed the building and run the clinic on a volunteer basis. Last year, 8,513 people in villages were educated about the risks of landmines.
This case study is from this prosthetic workshop.
My name is The Nerkaw and I’m proud of my work with the prosthetic workshop at Kho Kay in Karen State, Burma. Mine survivors like me built this clinic and others now run it on a volunteer basis.
The clinic provides prosthetic limbs to victims of landmines and provides space for organisations to educate villagers about the risks of landmines. Many people cannot come to the clinic due to their loss of limb, inclement weather, difficult terrain and the ongoing civil war. I lead one of five outreach teams who meet victims that are too far away to be able travel to the clinic. I take a cast for the prosthesis, get it produced at the workshop and then take it to the survivor to be fitted.
Recently, I travelled for weeks through mountains, mud and rivers, sleeping in hammocks in the open forest despite the rainy season, to deliver a new prosthesis to Mu’Kpaw, a farmer who stepped on a mine back in January 1986. Mu’Kpaw’s prosthesis looks different from most other prosthetic legs. Rather than a replica of a normal foot, he has been fitted with a so-called “farmer-foot.” It is a specially constructed prosthesis, which is more stable and thus more suitable for cultivating muddy rice fields, climbing steep inclines or even for fleeing the violence of the protracted civil war.
On my way back to the prosthetic clinic, I continue to observe and make notes of any unmet prostheses needs. There are at least ten more mine victims that we can reach in this small district who have asked us for prosthetic legs. Hopefully we can help them if the prosthetic program receives funding for it. Even though I only get paid $50 a month, I do the work because there is such a great need and also because my girlfriend is a landmine victim.