Since 9 June 2011, in Myanmar, the military and Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which is one of the ethnic groups located in Northern part of the country, have been fighting each other. Thousands of people are forced to relocate into the forest and lack basic human needs such as clothes, shelters, food and medicine. I had seen several Kachin updates on the news and photos on Facebook and radio. I just read the news. It didn’t touch my heart, although I am Kachin as well. I just felt “Oh…so sorry to read that news” but I never thought what I should I do or what I can do.
Last March, I joined the Asean Youth Forum (AYF) with my 10 Myanmar friends who are from different places and of other ethnic groups. We discussed issues of my country and one Kachin youth suggested to show video clip about current civil war on Kachin State and situation of the refugee. He did that video clip by himself but he got photos from other sources.
In that video clip, some victims were running with their children under the rain and some are old people who can not run without having help. One woman who was 7 months pregnant said that she was raped by the three soldiers who said if she didn’t accept that rape, they would kill her baby. She cried a lot while she told her story. It was not only her but over 10 rape cases also happened.
The other story in video clip is that of a couple married one year before fighting. They were very happy and living peacefully with their cute baby. One day, the wife went to forest to find vegetables but she did not come back home because she was shot. In her village, villagers were forced to relocate into the forest and to the other places – like refugee camp or the Chinese border. Her husband was waiting for her but had to go. Day by day, her husband lost his mind and he has become fool because of missing his wife. Their baby was taken by their grandparents.
This story made me wake up and stimulated me to work for peace. I saw the photos of some children in which they couldn’t go to school and they were hungry, crying and facing fear. Their houses were destroyed. They don’t have life security and I saw their hopeless eyes on photos. When I saw that clip, I was shocked and cried a lot and thought about what I was doing and what I should do for this issue. I felt that they are also our Myanmar people and human beings and I should do as much as I can even though I have very limited capacity.
After watching that video clip, all Myanmar friends agreed to do advocacy about Kachin war in regional level as much as we can. We showed that video clip, did flash mob, and prayed with candles in AYF. Most friends from AYF also cried and they encouraged us to work for stopping civil war. We advocated in Asean People’s Forum/Asean Civil Society Conference in Cambodia although we might have risk when we go back to Myanmar for doing that.
When I went back from Cambodia, I discussed with two of my friends what we can do for Kachin issue. Most of the people from city areas don’t exactly know what happening in Kachin state and they just know “ Oh…military and KIA are fighting each other”. There is not that much public voice to stop civil war on Kachin State and public awareness, so my friends and I decided to give public awareness and raise people’s voice to be heard by the government and KIA by doing campaigns in public areas. We held a meeting almost every day among us. We have ideas for stop war campaigns but we don’t have budget and enough human resources, so we invited the other youths to cooperate with us through email and Facebook. Around 30 youths from organizations or individual came to the meeting and we presented our ideas. They were very interested so we decided to build “Peace Network” among us based on issues and we discussed our activities to stop civil war on Kachin State.
We held a meeting almost every evening. Some Peace Network members are working for peace signature campaign. They collect signatures in public areas – the market, shows, parks, events, on the street — by explaining about Kachin war within short time. The target goal is to collect 676767 signatures and send it to legislature and the President. One 67 refers to Aung San Su Kyi Birthday, another 67 means to President Birthday and the other 67 indicate to ethnic leaders.
Moreover, we, peace network members, sing peace songs, do flash mob and umbrella, T-shirt and sticker campaigns in public areas. There was a Peace Seminar, including panel discussion and edutainment, to give awareness how much this war affects the whole nation on 1st July. Although military and KIA are still fighting each other, people are raising voice to stop civil war more and more. I think that more people are participating in peace process.
NOTE: As part of the SEA camp, participants are encouraged to write their media memoirs – reflections on how the media has influenced their lives and perspectives, regardless of whether it’s news, television, films, books or even the radio. Through these media memoirs we see how the media can shape us, and appreciate the importance of media literacy in our countries. SEAYSS will be publishing the media memoirs of most – if not all – the participants of 2012′s SEA camp, together with reflections on the state of media literacy in Southeast Asian countries. If you have any thoughts about media literacy in your country, do comment on our articles or email us your thoughts at editor[at]seayouthsayso[dot]com!