This was first posted on The OH! Campaign. The OH! Campaign is dedicated to increasing awareness about the suffering of the Burmese people, especially in the face of huge business projects backed by international investors.
Singapore has been identified as one of the biggest investors in Burma.
How much would you pay for a holiday? A fancy dress bought at a shiny, air-conditioned shopping mall? A movie in a cinema with plush, comfy seats? A meal at a new boutique restaurant? A massage and a facial at a spa? How much would you pay?
$100? $500? $1000? Or maybe even up to $5000, for a really decadent, luxurious break away from the hustle and bustle of your everyday life?
How about a life? Would you pay a human life for your holiday?
A new deep water seaport is being planned in Dawei in southeastern Burma. It is huge, with investors coming in from all around the world. It's going to have everything, from oil refineries to petrochemical complexes to garment factories to schools to condominiums and shopping malls. And of course, it is going to be a World Class Holiday Destination, with spas and resorts and watersports.
It sounds good, and the mock-ups sure look great. I would be tempted to take a trip there myself, once its complete, to indulge in all the goodies Dawei would have to offer. If only I could forget my experiences as a volunteer along the Thai-Burmese border.
As a volunteer, I got to know a number of Karen people. They were some of the most hospitable people I had ever met, ready and willing to accept me into their lives and treat me just like family. I spent two short weeks with them, arriving as a stranger and leaving as a sister and a friend. It was an experience I will never forget.
But just last week I received some news. Violence against the Karen people is escalating, with the Burmese army (SPDC) coming into conflict with the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) in more and more areas. The SPDC is trying to push its way deeper and deeper into Karen-held areas, and people are losing their homes, their lands, their lives. Some of the friends I had made on my volunteer trip have lost old school friends, and are in danger of losing more.
And it is all thanks to the Dawei seaport project, with its need for infrastructure – roads, railways, hydropower plants. The government wants the land, and the Karen people are on it. Therefore, in their minds, the Karen people have to go, by any means necessary.
The land where the Karen people build their homes, tend their gardens, go to school, fall in love, get married, raise their children is going to be taken from them, bulldozed, and turned into tarmac roads to feed the Dawei seaport, moving Burma's resources out of the country. It is also going to allow the SPDC to patrol the areas more tightly, oppressing and terrorising the people more than ever.
All this so that some companies can make money, and privileged people – such as you and I – can have decadent holidays by the sea.
So ask yourself this: would you pay a life for your holiday?
If your answer is no, I hope that you will support our campaign as we bring you stories of – and from – the people in Burma who are suffering thanks to these huge investments and big-money projects. I hope that you will sign our petition, urging the international community to take action. And I hope that you will spread the word to everyone you know, so that they too can join us in trying to make the world a better place for everyone.
- love, tdp.