We are a legally registered non-profit non-governmental organisation made up of people from Burma and around the world. We come from various cultural and professional backgrounds, some of us refugees on the Thailand-Burma border and others born and educated in Western societies. We all believe that at this critical time of change in Burma, upholding and amplifying the voices of Burma’s marginalised ethnic nationalities and displaced people is more important than ever.
Burma Link is a non-profit non-governmental organisation that was founded by foreign specialists in the field of ethnic relations and international development together with refugees and migrants from Burma in August 2012 in Mae La refugee camp, Thailand. We set up Burma Link to centralise information on Burma’s conflict and displacement situation and to amplify the voices of local organisations working towards free and peaceful Burma.
The initial idea of creating an informational website collecting information and voices of local civil society groups gradually developed into establishing a non-profit organisation that seeks to amplify Burma’s marginalised voices from the ground through projects such as publishing books and research reports based on the stories and voices of Burma’s ethnic nationalities and displaced people, drawing attention to these untold stories and making recommendations to policy makers and stakeholders.
As part of our ongoing project, we publish life stories and in depth interviews with a wide variety of civil society actors as well as soldiers and leaders from different Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) that work towards a Federal Union of Burma. We have been publishing life stories on our English website since April 2013 and Burmese website since January 2014. 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.
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 published online in English on April 27, and in Burmese on June 20. All the 20 interviews for the paper were conducted by Burma Link members in different Thai border refugee camps. 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). 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.
Burma Link was legally registered as a non-profit organisation in August 2013. Burma Link operates with volunteer staff members and local interns, all of whom are deeply committed to our Vision, Mission and Values. In addition, a Governing Board made up of four local and international professionals representing Burma Link’s members provides overall sanctioning of Burma Link’s operation.
We are particularly proud of our achievements considering that Burma Link is still run by non-paid volunteers who are driven by sheer passion and determination. Everything we do is based on assessed impact and not driven by funding potential.
All our work stems from ideas on how we can drive change We are deeply passionate about Burma issues and genuinely care about including Burma’s marginalised populations into the country’s transition. We would never jeopardise anyone’s identity or dignity in order to “get a good story”. We respect the people’s feelings and concerns and will always put them before media coverage or anything else. We consistently work with high levels of respect and consideration for the people of Burma in everything we do.
We strive for excellence in everything we do. We are not only effective professionals and enthusiasts who work hard but we are completely internally driven. We work to make a change and we know we can make it happen. We are also very good at maximising our impact and getting everything out of the limited resources that we have.
We are the only organisation whose main focus is to amplify the voices of Burma’s ethnic nationalities and displaced people. We are also the only organisation that works to publish life stories of the people of Burma. We are also one of the few organisations that publishes press releases and reports of small local CBOs. We are also the only organisation that has a website in Burmese where different publications are collected. We also have the most background information regarding the situation inside Burma and on the border easily and freely accessible to everyone online.
We have extensive knowledge on Burma’s history and current issues. We also have access to a variety of unheard viewpoints such as those of refugees, IDPs, and Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs). We understand to judge the Burma Government by its actions and not by its words. We are very familiar with Burma’s ethnic cultures and many of the local languages, and also have expertise in creating conditions for peaceful relations between myriad ethnic groups. We come from very different backgrounds, all bringing in different skills and viewpoints that we utilise towards a common Vision.
All our work stems from what really needs to be done, and not what kinds of projects donors would potentially fund.
Message from the Founder and the Chairperson
When I came to the Thailand-Burma border in 2011, I had no idea it was to change my life forever. I had just finished studying for MSc in Ethnic Relations and was looking to volunteer for a few months with one of the local organisations on the border.
Little did I know that the people of Burma would sweep me off my feet and leave me no choice but to stay. The culture that once seemed strange and foreign, slowly became my home as I worked and lived with migrants and refugees from various ethnic groups in Burma. I was amazed by the courage and spirit of these people who had been oppressed and pushed to the peripheries of their societies for so long. They had almost none of those things that in my society people have grown up to take for granted, and yet they were the most grateful, giving, determined, and inspiring people I had ever met.
Living in a refugee camp for one school year, I witnessed people’s desperation first-hand as they had no voice to speak with. No one seemed to listen and most had given up hope. I learned refugees’ feelings about the help they received and what they wanted for their future. Step by step, these experiences and aspirations led me to found Burma Link with the help of foreign professionals and refugees and migrants from Burma. We might come from different worlds, but we share a dream, a passion, and an unwavering belief that at this critical time of change, amplifying the marginalised voices of Burma is more important than ever.
Taking on this challenge has certainly meant some serious life changes for me, which some of my family and friends have greeted with support and enthusiasm while others struggle to understand the choice I made. All I can say is I never felt that I made a choice.
If your family and friends were in trouble, wouldn’t you do everything you can to help them? If your family and friends were living a limbo with no rights and no future to look forward to, wouldn’t you try to give them one? If they and their people were oppressed, wouldn’t you seek justice for them, and if they and their people were silenced, wouldn’t you find a way to have their voices heard? So would I.
Ever since founding the organisation, Burma Link has utilised a host of contacts on the Thailand-Burma border and across the world, including pro-democracy, capacity building, human rights and women’s organisations, human rights advocates and local community leaders from various ethnic backgrounds as well as international aid workers, journalists, and photographers. Burma Link firmly believes that cooperation is the key to create a shared view of positive change in Burma and to work effectively towards it.
We have partnered with a number of local and international organisations and news agencies that have agreed for us to share their publications on Burma Link’s website so that our viewers can have easy access to a wealth of information. Most of these organisations are small local organisations, typically representing one ethnic group, that produce periodic press releases and reports of the situation in their respective regions inside Burma. We post their publications in order to give them a larger audience both inside Burma (on our Burmese website) and internationally (on our English website). Many of these organisations have worked on the border for over two decades, developing capacity building and aid programs addressing the needs of Burma’s vulnerable populations as well as documenting human rights abuses and writing reports on developments inside the country. When all of their publications are collected to one place, the reach of these small organisations and their publications can increase significantly.