My name is Saw Ah Soe. I am a Karen, one of the biggest ethnic in Myanmar. Now I live in Australia together with my wife and six children as a permanent resident. Before coming to Australia, we lived in Thailand at Mae Ra Ma Luang Refugee Camp for twenty years.
The escalating violence right now reminded me of my traumatic experience during my childhood. I grew up in a small village in the Karen State. When I was twelve years old, I witnessed how the Burma Military Government mistreated people in the village. The Karen National Liberation Army often came into the village and sometimes accidently met with Burma Military group and such horrible things happen to innocent civilians.
My father was the head of the village at that time. I remember at some point, KNU soldiers would visit our village to get some support from the people, such as food and necessary provisions. But then, when Burma Military Soldiers came to inspect the situation in that village, they would be suspicious of anyone giving their support to the KNU. My father was one of those who were maliciously questioned by the military and eventually arrested. Right at my eyes, I saw him handcuffed, water tortured, and beaten so that he would speak up and provide information about the Karen National Army. My father did not say anything, up until I also saw my mother cried and pleaded for mercy. Despite, my father was imprisoned by the military. They never released him even though my mother bailed him out with the money she raised by selling our farmland, animals, and property. Eventually, my father got out of jail, but then his health deteriorated due to tortured and abused, until he passed away. At this point, my family decided to flee our small village to seek refuge at Thai-Burma border.
This sad and unfortunate memory now comes back to me again when I hear the terrible news right now. The military has once again seized power from a fledgling Burma Democracy after its first-ever successful election and before the start of its Parliament led by the central party NLD (National League for Democracy). My brother, who is still living in our village with his family, told me of the military would go and visit villages, arrest suspected leaders, and imprison them, and inflict violence. They would even send out people to spies in the Karen community and pretending as Karen villagers – by wearing our traditional attire – and eventually, would report to the military of those people with opposing views to military dictators. This tension and situation create a lot of divisions in the community, aside from anger, fear, and trauma.
For several years now, my church at Werribee Karen Baptist Church has been supporting the Karen people living in the Thai-Burma border refugee camps and internally displaced people through donations and constant prayers. I bring this out to wider Baptist communities to aware that the ethnic groups in Myanmar struggling for the survival last many decades. We hope and pray that the long suffering may come to an end by God’s mercy. Despite such tremendous riot and chaos in all cities of Myanmar, the military dictator army continues attacking Karen villagers in Mutraw district in Eastern Myanmar. Currently thousands of Karen villagers are displaced and seeking refuge. The world does not hear the voiceless people in Myanmar jungle crying days and nights, longing for the peace and justice to come to an end.
I also hope that our Baptist communities will support us in advocating and praying, so that all people in Myanmar will enjoy freedom as we do.
Peace on Earth
Ah Eh Soe
Werribee Karen Baptist Church