In June, 2011, Burma ended a 17 year ceasefire in its northern Kachin state. Since the fighting began, the Burmese government continues to commit serious human rights abuses including torture, rape, detention, and death. As a result over 75,000 people have been displaced, many now living in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps set up by community organizations. Refugees are living without basic needs like food, water, and shelter, yet no aid from the US has been sent.
As an aid worker in these camps, I see firsthand how urgently supplies are needed. I started working for the Kachin Women’s Association after I lost family at the hands of the Burmese regime. Everyday I see thousand of refugees whose lives could be saved with simple things like food or medicine.
Aid from the US could begin saving lives immediately, yet despite the Obama Administration fully knowing the human rights crisis on the ground, no money has been sent.
If this were a natural disaster, aid would have been sent immediately and even though there is already money earmarked in the US budget for Burma, aid has yet to come.
Obama has been quick to call improved relations with Burma a foreign policy success and with an election coming up, the Administration does not want to admit that there are still problems in Burma.
With local campaigns on the ground and a new report from Human Rights Watch, public international pressure is crucial to getting Obama to stop turning a blind eye and sign off on aid to Burma.