Stand With Myanmar – Appeal Update (KWO and MICS-TUsF)
Karen Women’s Organization (KWO), Emergency Humanitarian Assistance to IDPs and Refugees
At the end of May, more than 220,000 people (UN estimates) are now displaced across Burma as a result of the recent military coup, with about 80,000 people displaced in Karen State.
Over 8,000 are sheltering along the Salween River, hoping for easier access to aid and potential refuge in Thailand but living in very precarious circumstances – hiding in the forests, in caves, in holes and bunkers.
More than 70,000 IDP in Karen State and along the border with Thailand benefitted from local Emergency Response Teams, made up of six local community based organisations, including KWO.
In addition, an estimated 4,450 civil disobedience movement activists, ousted members of parliament, ethnic political party leaders, journalists, engineers, teachers and doctors, as well as police and military deserters are also taking refuge in seven districts in Karen State are also receiving support indirectly through the Karen Peace Support Network, of which KWO is a leading member.
Support has included 225,000 kg of rice, various other dry foods, kitchen materials, sleeping and shelter materials, clothes, water containers, medicine and health supplies as well as fuel.
KWO contribution to these activities is support by funds from multiple donors, including: BKKee, DAK, PWF, Chippin Away, APHEDA, FGHR and AJWS. As well as in-kind donations of food, clothing, shelter and medicine from the people of Thailand.
It is estimated that about 10,000 IDP have benefited directly from KWO’s focused support for women, girls and the most vulnerable. This support includes distribution of 3000 nutrition packs, 600 hygiene packs and 1473 sanitary packs. The KWO has also provided support for medical emergencies (land mind and mortar injuries, birth complications). In some cases, cash was sent to families to purchase rice and in other cases to communities to set up rice banks.
Efforts are complicated by COVID restrictions and also by lack of coordination between local Thai authorities and Thai military limiting access to IDPs and stemming the flow of material support.
Myanmar Industry Craft and Services Trade Union federation (MICS)
In March, a group of women lawyers initiated a new network to provide pro-bono legal aid and counselling service to political prisoners in Myanmar. The network has expanded engaging paralegal, final semester of law students, members of Student Unions across the country. Founded by women lawyer activists, Daw Zarli Aye, Daw Hnin Win Aung and other women activists, the lawyer network can be found across the country.
The lawyer network dispatches teams consisting of a number of lawyers and paralegals in many districts and townships. The number of team members depend on the intensity of arrest and human rights violations in the districts and townships. In East and West Yangon, for instance, one team can consist of five to ten lawyers with 40 paralegals providing legal counselling.
Among various political cases handled includes imprisoned union leaders; Daw Myo Aye, Director of STUM (Solidarity of Trade Union Myanmar) and U Thet Hnin Aung, General Secretary of MICS-TUsF (Myanmar Industry Craft Service-Trade Unions Federation) and handling allegations of sexual harassment against political prisoners and spouse/s of political prisoners.
Recently, the lawyers provided counselling for a woman, fiancée of police officer who joined CDM, raped by a soldier while seeking for information on her fiancée’s whereabouts. The rape was videotaped by another soldier and shared to the prisoner. That was only an example of brutal sexual harassment among others experienced by many women after the coup.
The network also mobilizes local logistic contribution to support the lives of 47 families whose breadwinners are imprisoned. The amount of monthly support is US$ 25.
Performing advocacy for political prisoners under military regime poses many challenges. Death threats and sudden street searches targeting lawyers on the way to visit prisoners and soldier pointing gun at lawyers after court tribunal are very common. The lawyers are also familiar with “white terror”, officers from Naypyithaw using “friendly approaches” to obtain personal information and put the lawyers under constant surveillance. The women lawyers are often subjected to verbal sexual harassment by soldiers while visiting prisoners.
APHEDA will work with its established partner union, MICS to provide assistance for legal support and logistics to imprisoned trade unionists and workers and their families.
Funds raised from the Myanmar appeal will continue to assist these two activities with our established partner organisations KWO and MICS.
Stand with Myanmar
The military coup in Myanmar on Monday 1 February 2021 has sent shockwaves throughout the world. We are witnessing the rapid disintegration of democratic transition and a return to full military control. The country has already been suffering as a result of the global economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the precarious situation of the country, this coup will have further negative impacts on the lives of people in Myanmar and along the Thai-Myanmar border.
Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA has stood with civil society organisations, trade unions and activists in Myanmar and on the Thai-Myanmar border for over 25 years as they have struggled for peace and democracy.
We must continue to stand with them now.
By making a donation today, you will help APHEDA’s partner organisations in Myanmar and on the Thai-Myanmar border stay strong as they resist military oppression and build political power during the crisis. For our partner organisations in Myanmar, it is crucial that they retain the successful movement-building work they have already achieved and that they are equipped with the resources they need to operate under a state of military oppression. They are in for a long struggle ahead and will need to increase their organising, advocacy and education on the ground. On the Thai-Myanmar border, our partner organisations are dealing with an urgent humanitarian crisis as the airstrikes intensify and people are displaced.