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What In The World
What in the World? RTÉ One, Thursday, 11.05pm

Programme 1

The Generals’ Genocide

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In an age when we have almost become immune to the loss of life from war, Mu Ko Lay’s story of the death and burial of her two young sons in the jungle as she and her village were being pursued by the Burmese military is as stark and emotionally wrenching account as one is likely to hear. Through uncontrollable sobs, she described how she buried her children “like dogs” as she and the village fled for their lives. But her story is just one of many in a country that has been in the grip of military rulers since 1962.

Burma has a population of 55 million people, ruled by a military junta headed by Than Shwe.  The junta renamed the country Myanmar, but few recognize the name. For sixty years now since Burma got its independence from Britain in 1948, a civil war has raged in what is now the world’s longest civil war. We entered the country illegally to meet with some of the Karen people one of thirteen ethnic groups in Burma.

The Karen state is located on the eastern border with Thailand and home to over 4 million people. During the Second World War, the Karen fought for the British against the Japanese, on the guarantee that at war’s end they would gain an independent State. It was not to be. When Burma gained independence from Britain in 1948, the Karen were abandoned by the British to their age-old enemies.

Adopting a scorched earth policy, the Burmese government soldiers burn the Karen villages, slaughter their livestock and destroy their rice stocks. They rape, torture and kill.

Always on the alert for the presence of Burmese soldiers, many of the Karen people have fled to the country’s very edge, beside the Moei river, where they eke out a precarious existence in temporary shelters. Fearful of the night-time attacks by the Burmese army, many cross the river Moi into Thailand where they sleep in temporary huts and hammocks. Fearful of being detained by Thai authorities during the day, they cross the same river every morning back into the Karen state.

Set against the background of the 8/8/88 uprising and the September 2007, uprising this film captures the precarious and fraught world of the Karen people and the repressive life under Burma’s ruling military gerontocracy.

Lae Lae New, is a former political prisoner who served four years in jail for typing an anti-government letter describes the torture regime in Rangoon. Buddhist monk Agga Nya Na described the chaos that gripped Rangoon last September during the September uprising while members of the Karen National Liberation Army declare their determination to fight on until they achieve an autonomous state within a free federal democratic Burma.

The film was shot before the recent cyclone hit Burma. For those wondering how a government can be so disconnected from the suffering of its own people they will find some answers to that question in this film.

 

Mu Ko Lay and Maung Mya whose two sons were killed by the Burmese military
U Ong Batha, a Burmese monk who fled Rangoon after the September 2007 uprising. He still bears the scars on his head of being beaten with a baton by the Burmese military.
A Karen child hiding out in the Burmese jungle.
Peadar King with Ker Moo a soldier of the Karen national Liberation Army