Saturday, January 26, 2008

Rambo and the Karen

Building on Dave's post, I have some personal familiarity with the Karen people who are the subject of the latest Rambo "film", so I'll stay up a bit later past my bedtime tonight and comment.

Citizenship and Immigration states:

Karen Refugees in Thailand

A solution is in sight for thousands of refugees from Burma (also referred to as Myanmar) who have been “warehoused” in camps for decades and are currently accommodated in nine camps in Thailand. Following an agreement by the Royal Thai Government to allow large-scale resettlement of Burmese refugees, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has identified 13,000 of an estimated refugee population of 140,000 in need of priority resettlement. The groups identified are those facing a particularly precarious existence and who have suffered severe persecution, including torture, imprisonment, forced labour, the burning of villages and forced relocation in their homeland.

Eight hundred and ten Karen refugees have been accepted by Canada. This is the first time since the resettlement of Indochinese refugees that Canada has accepted a significant number of refugees from Thailand. Other countries offering to resettle large numbers of Burmese refugees are the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.
Group Resettlement of Karen Refugees

The refugees accepted for resettlement to Canada are among an estimated 14,000 who have been confined in the Mae La Oon camp in Mae Hong Son Province of Thailand. They are predominantly of the Karen ethnic group. The majority fled to Thailand in 1995 following a major offensive by the Burmese government army against the Karen National Union (KNU). A small portion of the population has been in Thailand since as early as the 1960s, having lived in sporadic settlements until the camps were formed by the Thai government in the late nineties.

Of the nine camps in Thailand, Mae La Oon has the dubious distinction of being the most remote and the most difficult for aid workers to reach, and of having the worst living conditions. The camp is extremely overcrowded. Refugee dwellings are built on steep hillsides that are susceptible to landslides. The lack of appropriate sanitation and water facilities for a population of 14,000 creates a situation where serious public health risks are endemic, and where other social problems associated with such conditions are reaching alarming levels. It is because of the worsening conditions in Mae La Oon that the UNHCR has pushed for group resettlement from Thailand as a matter of priority.
What the CIC site does not say is that the Karen are still periodically raided by the Burmese army while in the Thai camps. Nor does it tell you that the Thai government places severe movement and education restrictions on the Karen, and will periodically raid the camps with its own army looking for evidence that Karen have engaged in travel or work outside the camps. Nor does it tell you the Thia government does not like admit refugees live in Thailand. Nor does it tell you the Thai government will deny exit visas to sponsored refugees, forcing them to remain in the camps. Nor again does it tell you that the Karen came to be in their prediciment because they fought and died for the Allies (British) in the Second World War, who then went on to deny their claim to a recognised Karen State homeland when they were divesting themselves of colonies following the war. This was and still is a source of bitter disappointment and resentment among many Karen. Like so many other ethnic minorities in post-colonial coloniser-constructed states, conflict with Burmese overlords ensued. Postwar Karen then formed what became the Karen National Union (KNU) in armed and political opposition to a new and hostile Burmese leadership. The conflict still goes on.

Canada has settled a little more than the 810 mentioned by CIC through private sponsorships, but not many. Even factoring in the nine other states does not help the 140 000 living in camps to any significant degree. Nor does dividing an ethnically, culturally, and geographically homogeneous people amongst ten different countries around the world do much for its preserving heritage and securing dreams of a return to their homeland.

Bringing this back to Mr. Stallone's gorefest, the production costs alone could have sponsored the resettlement of a good many of those refugees. The profits from the film could resettle many more, or provide the camps with material support, or help pressure the Thai government into allowing Karen access to Thai education and employment opportunities. Or support a number of NGOs who aid the Karen in the Thai camps and in settlement countries. Or all of the above and more. There is nothing on the movie homepage to suggest anything of the sort - though fans can apparently win a home theatre system. Furthermore various other wanker fuckwits (they will not be linked) have reviewed this film and picked on apparently wimpish qualities of portrayed "liberal" aid workers as justification (fantastification?) for realworld Ramboery. Look here, lest you lend them any sort of credibility.

In sum, you can assume that this lastest film is designed to exploit the plight of real living breathing people to further en-filthy-rich a freak and provide death fetish grip enhancement material for interstellar garbage.

See Dave's excellent alternative instead. Or, if you're really keen on Burma and the Karen but not like Sly, try this selection.

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