Archive for June, 2012

Myanmar’s Women Desperate for Health Care After Decades of Neglect

Posted on June 25, 2012, by Hanna Ingber, under Burma, Health, International, women.

MAE SOT, Thailand — Maw Lwin Khine lives with her husband in a small wooden home with a thatch roof. They don’t have electricity, running water or a phone. The couple sells flowers, earning roughly 2,500 kyats (US$3) a day.

They were managing fine until Maw Lwin Khine, eight months pregnant, went into labor.

Maw Lwin Khine’s aunts packed up food, loaded her into a horse cart and took her to a hospital in eastern Myanmar’s Karen State. Her husband followed on a bicycle. At the hospital, the doctor determined that Maw Lwin Khin, 28, had high blood pressure and needed a Caesarian section. The doctor performed the operation, but the baby had already died.

The difficulties did not end there.

The government-run hospital charged 200,000 kyats for the operation and another 300,000 for medicine and supplies. The couple pulled together their life savings and borrowed the rest – about 455,000 kyats – from friends.

Two weeks later, Maw Lwin Khine became sick again. She had a high fever and her body swelled up. The couple couldn’t afford to return to the hospital. Instead, they decided to visit a clinic in neighboring Thailand that offers free health care and serves Burmese. They borrowed 26,000 kyats and traveled 11 hours to Mae Sot, a border town in Thailand.

Recent news coverage of Myanmar has focused on promising developments in this long-suffering nation: the nascent political reforms, the election of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to parliament, and the West’s suspension of sanctions.

However, little attention has been paid to a more immediate need: affordable, decent health care.

Thanks to restrictive policies and a lack of investment, Myanmar’s current health care system is a disaster. Patients like Maw Lwin Khine are so desperate for affordable, quality medical attention that they travel long distances to cross an international border to get it.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

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Myanmar Army Accused of Widespread Rape in Kachin State

Posted on June 22, 2012, by Hanna Ingber, under Burma, International, Politics.

YANGON, Myanmar — Last month, Myanmar soldiers entered a village in war-torn Kachin State and found a 48-year-old grandmother taking shelter in a church. Ten troops allegedly beat the woman with rifle butts. They stabbed her, stripped her naked and gang-raped her over three days, according to the rights group Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT).

In October, KWAT reported the kidnapping and subsequent sexual abuse of a 28-year-old Kachin woman named Sumlut Roi Ja in a nearby township. That same month, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), soldiers detained 20 Kachin civilians including two women in the state capital Myitkyina.

The captives were taken to a mountaintop where soldiers forced the women to go from tent to tent, sleeping with each officer. The soldiers said things like, “You Kachin women like Burman penises very much, don’t you. All the Kachin women like our penises.”

Rape and sexual abuse among Myanmar’s ethnic women is nothing new. Rights groups say it’s been going on for decades – the terrible tactic of a rogue regime.

But now that Myanmar has emerged from decades of diplomatic isolation, Western sanctions have been lifted and the country stands ready to host an ASEAN conference in 2014, the alleged abuse stands to undermine the country’s progress. In many ways, these ongoing rights violations can be seen as a test for Myanmar’s nascent reforms.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

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Beyond Aung San Suu Kyi: Women in the new Myanmar

Posted on June 16, 2012, by Hanna Ingber, under Uncategorized.

YANGON, Myanmar – Zin Mar Aung’s friends told her not to get involved.

Everyone reminded her that if you joined the student protests breaking out in Yangon, you could face serious consequences. The army had beaten, arrested and even gunned down thousands of members of a previous generation of students during nationwide protests in 1988.

So when Zin Mar Aung along with hundreds of students decided to take to the streets in 1996, demanding the freedom to form student unions and release of jailed student activists, she knew she may have to pay a price. And she did.

In 1998, the military arrested her at the age of 22, and she endured 11 years in a filthy, bug-infested prison. But as soon as she was released in 2009, she began her pro-democracy work again, determined to do her part to resist the oppression of the military junta that had taken control of the country. It is work that she continues to this day.

At age of 36, she distributes relief to women and children who have fled fighting between the Myanmar army and Kachin rebels. She also works with other former female political prisoners to help them adjust to society. And she is learning how to properly monitor elections.

Zin Mar Aung is one of the many quiet voices of women who fought long and hard for justice in Myanmar.

And women, as many rights activists and political observers point out, have paid a disproportionately high price in this fight for democracy while they toiled under a half-century of rule by a male-dominated, repressive military.

Continue reading at GlobalPost.

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