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Myanmar government uses rape as weapon: Myra Dahgaypaw (click to view article & video)

Press TV has conducted an interview with Myra Dahgaypaw, the campaign coordinator of ‘US Campaign for Burma’ in Washington.

Press TV: Myra Dahgaypaw, let me start off with a quote first. This is a quote that says rape is used in my country as a weapon against those who only want to live in peace, who only want to assert basic human rights especially in the areas of the ethnic nationalities and that is a quote from Noble Peace Laureate Aung Sun Suu Kyi. Tells us your reaction to that and where has Aung Sun Suu Kyi been?

Dahgaypaw: I do agree with Aung Sun Suu Kyi. Burma military regime has been using rape as a weapon of war for decades in order to demoralize and dehumanize the people of Burma and exactly especially the ethnic minorities. And at this point of course physically Aung Sun Suu Kyi is still in Burma, but we also have to remember that she is not a political or a human rights activist like us anymore.

She is a politician, so she has her own game to play in her own scope, in her own arena. So yes, I do have the same question too: Where is she at this point where we need her help to speak out for the voiceless people?

Press TV: Myra Dahgaypaw, you represent the organization by the name of US campaign for Burma. Why do you not give us a little bit of a background about yourself and why you became the director for this organization? What reasons did you have and of course the background behind it?

Dahgaypaw: Actually, I just have to fix you quickly. I am not the director. I am the campaign coordinator and I am a Burmese myself from Karen ethnic group which is another minority group that has been in a war with the regime for 60 years plus.

So I have been an internally displaced person as well as a refugee myself for two third of my life. So I do understand how painful being an internally displaced person as well as a refugee. I totally understand the feeling. And in this case, in the case of the Rohingya people, it is harder for them, because they are not recognized. They are not seen as the people of Burma and therefore they have no rights. They have no place to live in Burma and I can totally figure out how hard their situation will be worse than the situation I was in as a refugee as well as an IDP.

And actually our organization is an advocacy group, advocating for the rights of the people of Burma, advocating for the political change for the better for the Burmese people as well as to educate the people around the world about Burma situation whether it comes to human rights issues or women rights, humanitarian awareness raising, yes, we do pretty much speak out on behalf of the people of Burma.

Press TV: If you have lived there for a couple of decades, as you mentioned there, can you break open what is occurring there? I mean I am looking at some of the different things that are happening there: detainments, subjected to torture, rape, not allowed to venerate their mosques; they cannot benefit from the social services and perhaps you can tell us more. Is this really what is happening there and has been continuing to go on even after this Thein Sein saying we are embracing democratic reforms?

Dahgaypaw: Yes, the human rights abuses you just spelled out they are still happening. All these mass atrocities are still happening and going back to the changes that have been made by this regime president Thein Sein. One thing I wanted to bring to your attention and everyone’s attention is that three major things over here that we have not seen the changes that we need to see.

The military is still on top of the power, still run the country, still overpower everybody because they have the 25-percent power reserved from the constitution and that has not changed yet. So there is one biggest change we need to see. The second biggest change is economy…

Press TV: Are they outside the realm of law that the law does not apply to them?

Dahgaypaw: No, they are the ones who have the power - the 25 percent of the power of the vote. Nobody can disturb. Nobody can see anything to it because this right is in the constitution reserved for the military. Nobody can go in and disturb this. It is in the constitution.

Press TV: Let’s take the case of the United States. Shouldn’t there be more of a proactive voice coming from the US regarding Myanmar? What is your basic viewpoint when it comes to the US which at this point, maybe on very few occasions, has voiced concern but we are seeing how they have developed a relationship with the government there which includes trade and later I will talk about their military cooperation?

Dahgaypaw: If we talk about the US at this point, I would say it is very upsetting. It is very disturbing to lift all the sanctions we have in order to allow the business or the booming business and the development to happen in Burma.

Burma is not ready yet and these are the leverage that we have for the course of almost 20 years to hold the regime accountable to a certain extent to make them move forward towards the better for the people of Burma, but now that we have nothing left. It is very upsetting and very discouraging for us.

And of course right now the companies or some of the companies started going in already and more and more will be going in and everyone’s hunger for all kinds of natural resources that come out from the ethnic minorities areas, even including the oil from the offshore of the western Burma, where the Rohingya people are displaced now and that is really upsetting.

I really wish that the US will still consider a little bit steps backward, reconsider the lives of the people of Burma particularly right now the Rohingya people and try to bring some kind of leverage so that we can protect these people.

I mean this is something that I have seen at this moment. It is very important but whatever they are doing right now, they have gone too far and too fast.

Press TV: If you had the US President Barack Obama sitting across the table from you, what words would you tell him? What would you tell him about Myanmar?

Dahgaypaw: If President Obama sits across the table from me, I am going to literally beg him to go back and put some of the sanctions in place literally, because if you want me to name all the abuses that happen in Burma, all the changes that have not happened for the people of Burma, I can give you the whole list and I can put it in front of his face and tell him is this what you want to see - the people to be killed, women to be raped and people to be internally displaced where they have their own home and they have to live in a slum, not even a slum, a crowded little piece of land where raining season is going to come very soon.