Spring 2022 MettaDana Myanmar Update
Dear Friend –
As you know, it is sometimes the most troubling conditions which can inspire the most beautiful expressions of humanity’s goodness. The situations that foment the gravest doubt and fear can also be the spring from which the most profound faith and inspiration can emerge. This fact holds true for the ongoing strife in Myanmar.
In this letter, we hope to convey to you the inspiring efforts the MettaDana Project is supporting in Burma despite the brutal circumstances unfolding for so many people living there. We offer you a comprehensive report of our humanitarian assistance for people in situations we care deeply about and that you have contributed to.
Of course, we are asking again for your support – and hope you can continue to join in the stream of affectionate solidarity continuing to bolster the efforts of so many wonderful and dedicated people in this country we are so deeply indebted to.
Since the military coup last year and the merciless crackdown on democratic activity that followed, Vipassana Hawaii, through the MettaDana Project, has gone through a transition time to make sure we support the safest ways to benefit as many people as we can. We have followed the guidance of our colleagues on the ground and made the decision to focus our efforts on humanitarian support for the hundreds of thousands of Internally Displaced People (IDPs) in Myanmar – specifically those in the region of Kaya (Karenni) State, where we have long-supported various projects.
We are still in the process of finding a safe way to get financial support to our long-standing efforts in Wachet village: the nuns, the schools, the hospital, etc. We have raised funds for these purposes, but are cautious to not put any of our colleagues in danger or get any of our friends into trouble. Getting the money directly into their hands will continue to take some patience and careful consideration. We will update you as new opportunities arise.
We hope you will take the time to read this report, as the situation for IDPs is dire, and we are certain that we are able to make a difference in supporting many of the people who find themselves in such dreadful conditions.
Long before the February 2021 coup, the MettaDana Project began collaborating with friends at the Foundation for Economic Development (FED) as a way to support the work of multicultural democracy in Kayah (Karenni) State, so glaringly needed since the onset of the Rohingya Crisis. Since the coup, our work with FED has been the primary vehicle by which to address the impacts of the civil war crisis in meaningful ways. It is easy for us to directly support this work as the organization also has a center in neighboring Thailand, and can legally work across the border to address the deepening humanitarian concerns in the area and across the country.
Since the February 1, 2021 coup, the Foundation for Education and Development (FED) has provided a great deal of humanitarian assistance to Internally Displaced People (IDPs), especially women, children, and seniors – primarily in the area of Kayah (Karenni) State, as well as in the Yangon region. Your contributions have made much of this work possible.
FED has provided assistance for youth who participated in the peaceful Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) demonstrations – especially food, legal expenses, transportation, as well as COVID-19 prevention materials. Most of the students from Seh-Tow-Ro’s Youth Peace, Education, and Development Center in Kayah (Karenni) State (which MettaDana has helped fund for several years) have become active volunteers and work on the ground helping serve the needs of the many IDPs in the region.
Seh-Tow-Ro Youth Peace, Education and Development Center
The Seh-Tow-Ro Center is currently providing accommodation, food, medicine, and education for civil war victims, primarily as an IDP camp. They have also recruited new volunteers and some of FED’s staff and volunteers permanently live at the center and maintain the agricultural projects, small crafts skills, and animal husbandry projects. It therefore also serves an important role as a center for food security in the community
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs):
FED’s staff and volunteers have also provided emergency assistance in several other IDP camps in Kayah (Karenni) State. They have tried to provide essential nutrition, medicine, clothing, and basic educational offerings for children, pregnant women, and the elderly. COVID-19 prevention is sorely needed in IDP camps, and FED has also been providing COVID-19 materials and information. At that same time, they are locally encouraging and campaigning for others to support the emergency assistance to IDPs in Kayah region. In addition, this year FED also provided oxygen to patients of COVID-19 in Yangon while there were extreme shortages of oxygen in Myanmar.
Human Rights Documentation
As a consequence of the civil war, many different kinds of human rights violations, including human trafficking, are now common problems in Myanmar. Over the past year, FED has been making documentary films regarding the anti-coup protests and the ensuing human rights violations perpetrated by the military government.
To see some of the short films that our donors have helped produce over the past year, click here. (the last 4 videos in the Myanmar Playlist are from this work).
Now, the team is focusing on a project addressing labor rights and human trafficking issues affecting IDPs and migrants. FED is also providing safe migration information in IDP camps and FED’s target areas in Yangon and Tanintharyi divisions.
One year after the military coup violently interrupted the progress toward democracy in Burma, we continue to see the country struggle in terrible and yet sometimes inspiring ways. The triple plague of the COVID-19 pandemic, the brutal military takeover, and the resulting economic collapse have spiraled the country into a state of extreme instability. Fear and violence have become entrenched in every region of the country.
The health care system is failing, as medical staff has been forced to flee from public hospitals after participating in the peaceful Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). It is estimated that over 800,000 fleeing migrants (IDPs) continue to move throughout the country, creating a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented magnitude in Myanmar.
Kayah (Karenni) State is one of the most impacted regions of the country. On December 24, 2021, more than 35 people, including elderly, women, and children, were killed by the Myanmar military near Mo So village of Hpruso. The massacre occurred in the area of FED’s Youth Peace and Development center, Seh-Tow-Ro. The relatives and family members of our rural Youth center are also among the massacre victims as well as two NGO staff from Save the Children, and a community health worker from a local organization.
In January 2022, further clashes between militant groups and government forces have been fighting even in Loikaw, the capital city of Kayah (Karenni) state – where at least half the population has fled. Myanmar’s military regime airstrikes have continued against Loikaw while its ground troops appear to have been defeated by resistance forces. According to UN estimates, 90,000 people from Kayah (Karenni) State are displaced. Estimates by local media and a rights group are far higher, suggesting up to 170,000 people in Kayah, more than half of its population, have left their homes. Displaced populations continue to experience significant challenges in accessing basic needs and services, particularly food, healthcare, and shelter materials.
More than 2000 villagers from Kayah (Karenni) state, primarily children, women, and the elderly, have begun massing near the Thailand-Myanmar border in the Mae Hong Son district. Many IDPs perceive the border regions as more safe from attack because the Burmese military is fearful of accidentally provoking a conflict with Thailand. Over 200 IDPs have tried to cross the Thailand-Myanmar due to fear of a possible airstrike.
“I am native from Kayah state. I have experienced the civil war for over three decades, but I have never experienced the current situation. We (our family), including two-year-old children, are still hiding and have moved three or four times already. I want to request both sides to stop the war. We have faced many difficulties, and even lost some our belongings because some have been stolen when we left our home. It was difficult to decide whether to stay in town or leave because we were concerned about losing our possessions. Myanmar’s military has begun firing the heavy weapons and airstrike now, and we finally had to flee.”
– a fifty-year-old Kayah ethnic in the IDP camp
The FED continues to work with their volunteers, partners, and allies to help the victims of the civil war.
While the details of the crisis may vary in the coming months, and the adaptability of the forms of response is essential, it is clear that there will continue to be a desperate need throughout the region, for the essentials of education, health care, food, and shelter for the most vulnerable people in the society – particularly, the Internally Displaced Persons. All the efforts mentioned above will continue with as much vigor as possible. New strategies will surely emerge according to conditions on the ground, and we vow to continue to support these essential efforts being made by these incredible people.
We thank you so much for your generosity last year in helping to make all this work possible. Now, as the shadow of despotism continues to cast its grim pall over Myanmar, and the luminous beings at the center of the humanitarian efforts continue to risk their lives for the well-being of all people of the country, we ask that you give again – in honor of the practice tradition that has benefited us in innumerable and incomprehensible ways, and for the simple sake of the dignity and beauty of the people of Myanmar. Please help us continue to support these powerful efforts by donating today: