What We Do 2017-05-01T12:43:58+00:00

WHAT WE DO

Burma Link advocates for the rights of Burma’s marginalised ethnic nationalities and displaced conflict-affected communities. Burma Link amplifies the voices of these disempowered and disenfranchised populations and projects them into local and global conversations to ensure that the re-building of Burma includes the diverse and unheard perspectives of the conflict-affected communities on the ground. Burma Link promotes unity and national reconciliation through storytelling and facilitating information exchange between different peoples of Burma so as to create a common understanding and a shared vision for the future. Burma Link also provides national and international actors with easy access to in depth information and voices from the ground in order to promote genuine peace and rights-based policy.

In 2016, we collaborated with the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) and Burma Partnership to produce a report, “Invisible Lives: The Untold Story of Displacement Cycle in Burma,” bringing attention to the plight of Mon IDPs in southeast Burma. The report was launched at a press conference in Rangoon on August 12th and in Moulmein on August 15th, and advocacy also included an animation produced jointly by Burma Link and Burma Partnership published on the World Refugee Day on June 20th. In 2015, we collaborated with Burma Partnership on a briefing paper “Voices of Refugees – Situation of Burma’s Refugees Along the Thailand-Burma Border,” which was launched and presented at the ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum 2015 in Malaysia on April 22nd and published online in Burmese on June 20th. Both publications were widely distributed to actors such as the Asia Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Watch, and the UNHCR as well as numerous international and local organisations involved in human rights and refugee issues. All the interviews for the Mon IDP report and the refugee briefing paper were conducted by Burma Link. Burma Link was also one of the organisations to produce the 2015 Submission to the United Nations Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on Refugees and Displaced Persons (Burma/Myanmar).

We interview people of Burma from all walks of life; migrants, ethnic leaders and activists, freedom fighters, refugees and internally displaced people to tell about their ongoing struggle for freedom and justice, and share their stories with the world. These are unheard stories of incredible spirit of resilience and courage, voices of hope and dreams that have emerged from decades of oppression. We share these stories with the global community in English and with the local communities in Burmese in order to promote national reconciliation, justice and equality in Burma, and to empower and inspire the people with a glimmer of hope for their future. With our passion, commitment and constant strive for excellence, we can give a voice to those who are silenced and empower the people of Burma. In March 2016, we published a book of life stories, “Lives on the Line: Voices for Change from the Thailand-Burma Border,” after successfully raising the funds for the project through an online crowdfunding platform. The book brings stories of Burma’s ethnic nationalities from the border area to local and international audiences in Burmese and English.

Burma Link’s AOC Leadership Program consists of two modules: (1) Empowered Life and Leadership Skills (ELLS), and (2) Storytelling and Information Sharing. The first three days of the program (ELLS) aim at developing essential life and leadership skills such as confidence, honesty and courage, responsible citizenship, and the ability to effectively deal with others. During the last two days, the participants learn how to help their community members realize the value of their voice and have their stories heard. Upon successful completion of the intensive 5-day program, participants become part of Burma Link’s AOC Leadership Network. Burma Link currently has a network of 30 AOCs from various ethnic nationalities. Trainings have been conducted with graduate students from higher education schools on the border, including Wide Horizons, the Australian Catholic University (ACU), and Thoo Mweh Khee (TMK) (GED level). In 2015, we paused the training activities and focused on developing the ELLS training modules in English and Burmese, which we aim to make widely available as a training module to promote ethical and empowered leadership with all youngsters from Burma.

Burma Link’s English website launched in December 2012 and serves as the link between the world and the people of Burma, helping the world reach in and understand the underlying dynamics and current conditions in Burma and on the Thailand-Burma border. The website presents a host of background information on Burma and the Thailand-Burma border, the most comprehensive package of information related to the situation easily accessible online. The website also creates a platform for the people of Burma to have their voices heard, and includes a comprehensive collection of resources including reports, documentaries, news, articles and press releases.

Burma Link’s Burmese website launched in October 2013 and serves as the link between the people of Burma, helping the people connect with each other and understand the underlying dynamics and current conditions in Burma and on the Thailand-Burma border. The website presents a host of background information on Burma and the Thailand-Burma border, creates a platform for the people of Burma to have their voices heard locally, and includes a collection of key resources compiled from different sources.

We aim to plan and execute various projects such as documentaries, research, musical productions, and events that help Burma’s marginalised ethnic nationalities and displaced conflict-affected communities have their voices heard in effective and creative ways and be used as advocacy tools by local actors.

 

Background

Most people in Burma and on the border were born into an environment where systematic barriers have prevented them from making decisions, taking action to improve their lives, or even speaking out. Many of them feel that they have no voice and believe that they are powerless to change their current situation. Refugees and exiles still frequently talk about the deliberate silencing of activists and ethnic nationality members inside the country as well as on the border. This is why Burma Link upholds the marginalised voices of the people of Burma, including the various organisations and people of Burma in exile.

Main Objectives

In order for Burma to transform to a peaceful and democratic society based on freedom and justice, the voices of the people of Burma, including the ethnic nationalities and conflict-affected communities, must be heard in the process. Democracy is all about people’s voices, and the best way to measure the extent of reforms and progress is to listen to the vulnerable and marginalised ethnic communities in Burma’s border areas. Having access to people’s voices and stories fosters greater understanding and knowledge about the past and the present as well as the similarities and differences between Burma’s peoples. Sharing information and stories with both local and global communities can promote positive developments and effective action, accountability and justice as well as forgiveness and reconciliation. Storytelling can also be a healing and empowering activity that can help the people of Burma discover themselves and create a shared vision for the future.

As the international community is shifting its policies toward Burma, it is arguably of crucial importance that they are aware of the conditions inside the country and around its borders. All attempts to address the humanitarian crisis and promote positive developments in Burma require a clear acknowledgement and awareness of the local context. Having access to grassroots voices and stories can help international actors feel more empathy and get more involved, learn more about the situation and gear them towards more just and effective action.

At this critical time of change in Burma’s political landscape, it is arguably of crucial importance that the people of Burma are aware of the conditions inside the country and around its borders, and understand the underlying dynamics behind the prolonged conflict and suffering. If Burma is to celebrate unity in diversity, Burma’s ethnic groups need to learn about and communicate with one another and all voices and perspectives need to be included in the transition.

Burma Link advocates for the rights of Burma’s marginalised ethnic nationalities and displaced conflict-affected communities by publishing advocacy tools such as books, briefing papers, and reports based on the marginalised voices from the ground and bringing them to policy makers and stakeholders.

Featured Key Achievement

In May and June 2013, thousands of refugees in Mae La camp were having their voices ignored regarding a UNHCR-led profiling survey in the camps targeting all refugees. Over 3,600 refugees in Mae La camp signed a petition refusing to participate in the survey, claiming the questionnaire solicited answers that favoured repatriation, fearing that the information could be used as an indication of “voluntary return.” Although the petition was likely the largest of its kind in the history of the border, no news agency or local organisation was publishing any information about it until the refugees approached Burma Link. We connected the refugees with the UN and cooperated with a journalist to publish a news article about the petition. The article was the most read article on DVB’s website for over a week, and the profiling survey was subsequently changed so that the more than 100,000 refugees on the Thailand-Burma border no longer had to claim that repatriation was one of the three options they voluntarily chose for their future.

Children in Mae La

A small group of thoughtful individuals can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.
-Margaret Mead

Envision
Enthuse
Empower

Children in Mae La camp photo by Oil Jiraporn.