Burma is Burning

Ethnic violence soars in Burma following ‘historic’ Obama visit, videos show

President Obama and Burmese President Thein Sein / AP
• January 16, 2013 4:59 am


The Burmese government continues to engage in ethnic violence two months after President Barack Obama's historic trip there to visit with the ruling regime.

Video captured by humanitarian aid workers in the weeks since Obama’s visit documents a series of targeted bombings carried out by government warplanes on civilian villages.

Multiple news reports and first hand accounts further indicate that Burmese security forces associated with the government have harassed and beaten peaceful protestors who advocate an end to the ethnic violence.

Burmese activists and others maintain that Obama’s November trip empowered the ruling regime of Burmese President Thein Sein, which has imprisoned hundreds of political opponents while pro-government militias carry out ethnic massacres.

"The president’s trip wasn’t helpful" for human rights activists, said U.S. Campaign for Burma’s Myra Dahgaypaw, who fled the ethnic cleansing in Burma’s northern Karen State. "It was just a few hours trip and a one-time inspirational speech. That doesn’t do anything for this stubborn regime."

"Less than two months after his historic visit to Burma, the Burmese army under Thein Sein has stepped up its assault on the Kachin Independence Organization/Army," said Dahgaypaw, who helped organize a Jan. 12 rally outside the State Department.

"I’m so disappointed with the Obama administration for not having political will and protect the rights of the people of Burma," she said. "They don’t want to pressure the Burmese regime because they don’t want to lose their engagement leverage."

Video obtained by the Washington Free Beacon from aid workers on the ground in Burma suggest the government has launched what experts say is an unprecedented bombing campaign in civilian areas.

"There’s no question the violence has spiked in the Kachin state [in Northern Burma] since Obama’s visit," said the director of the Free Burma Rangers (FBR), who is currently embedded in Burma and asked that his name be withheld for fear of government reprisals.

"After [Obama] visited there was even more" violence, he said. "Very measurably the attacks against the Kachin increased after he left."

Video taken by the FBR over several days in late December depict multiple planes releasing bombs on villages located around Burma’s Lajaiyang area near the city of Laiza.

Multiple civilians including children have been killed by the ongoing attacks, according to news reports and the FBR.

Although the government has officially denied responsibility for the shelling, the FBR suggested that the aircrafts are most likely government owned.

"I’ve rarely seen aircraft because they have few working aircraft," said the FBR’s director. "The use of aircraft now is unprecedented in intensity and frequency."

Activist Dahgaypaw criticized the Obama administration for failing to engage with Burma’s diverse ethnic minorities.

"If they [the Obama administration] genuinely want to protect the people, they should step up and condemn Burma’s army to stop the military assault in Kachin State now," she said. "They should reassess their economic and diplomatic ties with Burma and they should reconsider their military-to-military ties."

"Most importantly they should start to recognize the … minority leaders," Dahgaypaw said. "They should communicate with the ethnic leaders openly like they do with the Burmese regime. Now it looks like they don’t value the ethnic minorities and thus, they don’t talk to the ethnic leaders."

Ongoing violence is not the only concern U.S. leaders have regarding Burma.

Former Sen. Richard Lugar (R., Ind.) has warned that the Burmese government may be trying to acquire equipment that could be used to enrich uranium, the chief component in a nuclear weapon.

Lugar requested in a letter sent just days after Obama’s Burma trip that President Sein explain exactly what the government’s intentions are in trying to acquire such technology.