Burma has been dominating the headlines the past few weeks. Heavy fisted Than Shwe and his cronies have once again silenced opposition to their regime with violence and blood.
In 1993, I became good friends with Ma Khin Mar Mar Kyi (Mar) when we moved into the same house in Bangkok. I had just finished a privledged and exciting backpacking experience around India and Mar had just been forced to leave her home, family and friends in Rangoon and become a political refugee from Burma. Same age, same time, same roof, different lives. Through her personal history, Mar educated (educates) me about the social and political climate that lead to the 8/8/88 political uprisings throughout Burma and the oppression in Burma that continues today. In 1995 Mar migrated to Australia and is now a well recognised Burmese scholar in Australia, researching and working with victims of trafficking, migrant workers and stateless children.
Last year Mar made a presentation Hidden Stories: Cost of Burmese militarization on women and children at Parliament House in Canberra.
Mar and I speak at least weekly and she helps me to understand the complexities and challenges of life for the Burmese, both those inside Burma and those who live in exile. For me it is hard to understand why Burma's neighbours can't just pull together and expel Burma from ASEAN or why the Security Council cannot place Burma higher on it's list of priorities? I know it not as simple as this, but it is frustrating to see it take so long to bring change to Burma. On the other hand, in 1988 very few people in the international community knew what was happening inside Burma. This week, despite the tragic events, it has been great to see the widespread media coverage of Burma.
This is a picture I took of Mar in 2002 when we protested at Parliament House in Canberra, Australia on the 15th anniversary of the 1988 political uprising in Rangoon.
Mar and I in Laos around 1998.