Saving Burma’s Child Soldiers

The sun is sinking into the Yangon River, one of Burma’s main arteries. It is dotted with small boats on their way to dusky moorings. Arkar Min, 21, rides a water taxi with seven men, all of them silent. They’ve spent the day hauling fish into trucks. Now they rest against one another, backs between knees, arms around shoulders, heads on laps, lulled by the rhythmic thump of the engine.

Arkar Min has worked on Yangon’s docks since his release from the Tatmadaw, Burma’s armed forces, six years ago. He left school at the age of eight to help his struggling family. On the way home from his factory job, a man approached him, asking whether he’d like to earn better money as a driver. “I was so happy that I was going to learn to drive,” he says quietly, his eyes trained on the ember of his cigarette. His father, Tin Win, wanted him to be a farmer, but “the only thing that excited me then was driving fast.”


anonymous asked:

I've read in textbooks and seen on television so much stuff about how Japan was bad in the Second World War, but I don't think that's entirely true. I have Japanese relatives had to go through so much in the fire bombings and everything else. Yet I won't deny the Japanese did some terrible things too. But I guess my question is, is there really a "true" answer as to whether Japan was the "bad guy" or the victim (would go on but damn character limit won't let me)?

I want you to think about what you’re saying…you’re suggesting that because Japanese civilians suffered horrifically in the firebombings, it implies that Japan wasn’t “bad”. That’s not how it works. These things can co-exist. German civilians did die in bombings and suffer but the crimes of the Nazi regime are still real. And tbh, it’s pretty offensive to me as a descendant of people who suffered under Japanese rule.

Japanese civilians did suffer horribly and the memories of your relatives are very much real, but when it comes down to it- Japan was at war to begin with because like Germany, it was an aggressive and expansionist empire. The war in Asia after all, began before 1939 with the 1931 Invasion of Manchuria and the 1937 Sino-Japanese war- all instigated by Japan. My grandmother can remember disguising herself as a boy so she wouldn’t be raped, how once Japanese soldiers barged into her father’s house and everyone was terrified, or how people who didn’t bow correctly to Japanese soldiers on the streets were beaten, or how the Kempeitai had informers everywhere and executed hundreds of young men in mass graves. I mean there was a clear attempt to assimilate Asia into an empire- people were made to speak Japanese and names were changed to Japanese ones. There was the sex slavery of Comfort Women, the Bataan Death March, the slave labour on the Burma Railway and human experimentation in Unit 731, which was every bit like what happened under Dr Mengele. By the end of it, approx 20 million Asians were dead from massacres and starvation. 

The reason I come out strongly against it when people say things similar to what you have is because stories are frequently used by the Japanese government to dishonestly push a narrative that Japan did nothing wrong during WW2. To me, Japan has no right to portray itself as a victim if it doesn’t also acknowledge the millions more victims of Japanese imperialism. We would be having an entirely different conversation if Japan had apologised and fully acknowledged its actions during WW2 like Germany has- a discussion about Japanese victims would therefore not be quite so susceptible to playing into the kind of manipulation that it is by government revisionists right now. So while it’s perfectly right to talk about the atomic bombings or the horrors of the firebombing attacks, it cannot be removed from the context of Japan as an imperialist power fighting in humanity’s bloodiest conflict.

The Allies also committed their own war crimes and the atomic bombing was wrong (it amounted to collective punishment because it’s a civilian target). Japanese civilians suffered horribly and I sympathise with that- but there really isn’t a way around recognising the moral culpability of the Empire of Japan as a brutal imperialist power like Nazi Germany during WW2. Like Germany, WW2 Japan was infected with its own virulent form of ethnic nationalism and imperialist ambitions. 

From Reunions and Ransoms in Burma: Digital Connections Among the Rohingya, one of 20 photos. Sohidar, 25, a Rohingya mother of four, enjoys an internet reunion with her husband Muhammad Shamin, 30, who works in Malaysia, from an internet hut in Thae Chaung village, home to thousands of displaced Rohingya Muslims near Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State in western Burma, on January 31, 2015. Her face is smeared with a traditional Burmese cosmetic paste called thanaka. “Whatever happens, whatever anyone does, don’t get into any fights,” Sohidar warns him. “Don’t worry, don’t worry,” he replies. (Reuters/Minzayar)

You have given the Japanese a crack they will remember. Three weeks ago the enemy sent a large and formidable force through the jungle to cut your lines of communication and attack you in the rear. You have met the onslaught with courage, confidence and resolution…

The enemy forces which infiltrated have been destroyed and scattered. The threatened passes are clear, the roads are open. You have gained a complete victory.

—  Order of the Day issued on February 29th, 1944, by the Supreme Allied Commander, South East Asia Command, Admiral Mountbatten, to 14th Army, Eastern Air Command and Arakan Naval Coastal Forces. 

Posting this photo on facebook got a journalist detained in Myanmar

Aung Nay Myo, a freelance photojournalist, was arrested at his home in Monywa town on accusations of violating the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act, according tonews reports. Police officials searched his house, initially saying they were looking for drugs, then confiscated his diary, laptop, USB sticks, and closed circuit television equipment, the reports said.

The accusations stemmed from an altered image that Aung Nay Myo posted on his personal Facebook page. The image was of a movie poster about a 1971 battle between China-backed communist rebels and the Myanmar army, news reports said. The altered image superimposed portraits of current government leaders, including Army Chief Min Aung Hlaing, in a satirical manner, news reports said.

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Our new friends matter too

Today the situation became more complicated.

Every time I travel to Sittwe I’m able to gain a better understanding of the situation. And yesterday was like every trip before as more pieces of this puzzle reveal a clearly more complicated situation.

Since 2012 we have been working among a group of people in the camps who came from a village that was attacked. Like thousands of others they fled for the safety of the camps. For more than two years we have been working for these people, who like every one else in the camps, continue to suffer. I knew where their village was, but why would I go there, since by now nothing would be left. No homes, no market, no school, no access to the outside world, nothing necessary to support life. Then yesterday they asked me again to go to their village. Since they were from far away, beyond police checkpoints and a military base, and close to the people who had attacked them in 2012, I did not think it was possible. More than that, I didn’t think it was necessary. But now, these close friends wanted to show us again what was left of their village so we went.

We had to walk, and cross a river in a boat, but soon we arrived. I expected an open field with a few trees and the remains of foundations of homes indicating a thriving village sometime in the past. I saw so much more, and became confused.

Here I was, standing in the middle of a village, much like so many others in Myanmar/Burma. A village with homes, and people, lots of them. Adults and elderly and young, standing around looking at us. But that was the difference. They were just standing there. Village life is normally busy with the sounds of life. Fire wood being cut, cooking fires made, food being cooked, children playing on the path, parents yelling out to children to come home to eat, kids in uniforms coming home from school.  This village had none of that. No activity. Just people, lots of them, looking at us.

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