HURON — Sixty Karen residents of Huron were among the thousands of people from the United States and several other countries who went to Washington, D.C., last week to raise awareness of the plight of those suffering in their home country of Burma.
Karen also wanted to show their gratitude to what the United States government has been doing to help them.
Lah May Paw Soe of Huron, the leader of the Karen Association of South Dakota, said it was the first time for those in the Huron delegation to visit the nation’s capital.
There were tours of the U.S. Capitol building and other facilities where the Karen learned more about American history, she said. The Karen are calling for fully restored targeted sanctions against the Burmese government, particularly the Burmese Army, until the peace process that includes all ethnic groups is complete.
They want an end to all training of and the selling and shipping of military equipment as well as equipment that can be converted to military use.
Also, they are asking the U.S. to support refugees and internally displaced people along the Thai-Burma border with humanitarian aid. Programs have all been reduced or eliminated that people can return to Burma in peace.
The Karen Women’s Organization and its 60,000 members said that has not happened and the plight of those unable to return becomes worse each day.
Since its formation in 1949, the Karen Women’s Organization has expanded its focus from one of purely social welfare to try to encourage an awareness of women’s rights and to promote women’s participation in community decision making and political processes.
Karen are also asking that the United States pressure the International Criminal Courts to file criminal charges against top Burma generals for human rights violations.
The Karen are the largest ethnic group in the Burma region, known as the largest freedom-loving, pro-democracy group.
According to the Karen Women’s Organization website, the United States has supported Karen efforts to gain human rights, democracy and peace in their homeland, but need help once again to finish the fragile peace process begun with the elections in 2015.
“The process is currently stalled, people are being killed and human rights standards violated across Burma,” according to the website.
Some members of the Karen Association of Huron are shown in Washington, D.C., last week, where they joined thousands who were meeting to raise awareness of those suffering in their home country of Burma.