In Burma (Myanmar), the life of Karen People have a lesser value compared to the rhinoceroses.

Matter of Guy Matchoro collected by E. Tsubono with Kyôto, on April 30th, 1997


In the spring of that year, before taking part to the Document’art Group show of Kyoto-Kusatsu, I went to Thailand. I went along the Kwaï river up to the small village of Sangkhlaburi located near to the Burmese border at the North-East. There, I saw the tragic situation of Karen refugees in this area. I met the team of M.S.F (Doctors Without Borders) as well as other N.G.Os on the ground and which did an extraordinary work in the present greatest humanitarian emergency.… The welcome has been so warm that I stayed almost  a month on the spot where I painted the paintings you see here . When I did not have any more fabric I painted on bandanas, on my pant legs that I have cut with the heat which could exceed 40°C (104°F). There were many meetings. All  that will remains a long time in my memory and very poignant.

The nightmare of Karens proceeds in the depth of the Burmese jungle, in the east of  Tenasserim river. Approximately 2000 people live over there without food, money, with nothing but the clothes they are wearing. Families become dispersed. They are exhausted, eat almost anything which is present,  sleep in miserable and severe conditions in tents, there children seems to be in a very critical health condition, the old women sob, and horror have overwhelmed them. I fail to see what happened to Karens, which had since old times a marvellous culture.

Two months before my arrival at the village of Sangkhlaburi, in February 1997,  The Government of Myanmar (ex Burma) occupied by the military junta or SLORC (State Law and Order Restoration Council), and whose human rights record is simply hair-raising, have sent troops to the Karen’s villages, in respect of the protection of flora and fauna species that may have potential for World Heritage inscription. In the southern part of the countries where live Karens, there is a splendid jungle which shelters rare animals like the Rhinoceros of Sumatra, as well as tigers and elephants. The SLORC projects to build a national park larger there than Masaï-Mara (Kenya) and to make there come the tourists from the whole world. In fact, behind this project another is hiding: The construction of a gigantic gas pipeline which would connect  the well recently discovered at Andaman sea in Thailand, crossing right through  the State karen. In 1997, French and US investors seem to be welcome with this project…

Approximately 2000 people were killed in two months, 3000 others were driven out, dispersed and flee in the jungle and sometimes manage to pass to Thailand risking their lives. Most of he many people who came out to meet me where young people, and some ended up telling what occurs over there:

“Much of men, of very young people also, are forced to work with the construction of the railroads and the roads. They are used as porters and are used like “flesh to clear of mines” by the soldiers. Those which resist are being slaughtered , there corpses half buried , arm and legs remaining visible to serve as an example to the others…”

When this splendid park will be open, tourists must know that they risk not only their life but they indirectly allow an unbearable ethnic cleansing.



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