Monday, April 2, 2007

Review of 'State of Terror' produced by Karen Women's Organisation

The subject of the newly launched book, State of Terror, is summarized in its subtitle: ‘The ongoing rape, murder, torture and forced labour suffered by women living under the Burmese Military Regime in Karen State.’

The interviewing, compilation and production of this book has been a major team effort by the Karen Women’s Organisation (KWO).

The book builds on the findings contained in the 2004 publication, Shattering Silences, that detailed the alarmingly high number of Karen women and girls who have been raped by the Burmese military during its occupation of the Karen state.

This new book, with its very recent descriptions of human rights violations, draws on over 4,000 documented cases to reveal that the atrocities committed by the Burmese Military (SPDC) are increasing in their regularity. This trend is supported by the dramatic increase in the number of displaced people in Burma as well as the steady surge of Karen who are crossing the border into Thailand seeking asylum.

A distinctive feature of this 2007 update is the way it has documented a broad range of human rights abuses especially among Karen women and children. In graphic detail, with dates and names, State of Terror records instances of forced portering, the clearing of landmines, rape, beating, torture, murder, deprivation of food and water and various combinations of these abuses, designed to terrorise, subjugate and destroy the Karen culture and communities.

This report is raw and the events described are horrific. The style is not emotive but the testimonies of the victims make for harrowing reading. If is disturbing and difficult to read, it must have been devastating for those who conducted the interviews and wrote up this research.

Blooming Night Zan, who collected information for the report emphasized that the military offensive was still going on. She said, “It was heart-breaking to hear the personal tragedies from the hundreds of people I interviewed. It is unbearable to know this hell is still going on right now, even as people are doing their best to survive. The situation is past critical. The international community must act now to stop it.”

State of Terror is a loud cry to the Burmese (Myanmar) government to stop the abuse and allow the Karen to live at peace in their own land. It is a plea to the Thailand government to offer greater protection and ensure that victims of abuse have access to adequate health and psycho-social support. This book is a clarion call to the international government, to world leaders and ordinary people to keep Burma on the agenda and call for the immediate ceasefire by the Burmese military regime and a cessation of all atrocities.

State of Terror should be compulsory reading for people over the age of sixteen even if it is the most painful book to read.

Details of how a hard copy of the book may be purchased are available from The Karen Women’s Organization and the Women’s League of Burma.

The full text of the report can be viewed or downloaded from State of Terror.

Stop Press: Human Rights activists are currently appealing to the United Nation’s Human Rights Council in Geneva. A written and audio report by Lisa Schlein contains an interview with Blooming Night Zan, one of the writers of State of Terror. This can be read and heard at:

Lisa Schlein, ‘Activists Accuse Burma of Mounting a State of Terror,’ Voice of America News, 28 March 2007.

Geoff Pound

Image: Front Cover of State of Terror.