Friday, September 30, 2011


"Karen National Army guerrillas who are fighting the Burmese army for greater autonomy and an end to what they describe as ethnic cleansing." (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)
Burma's Convicts Become Unwilling Pawns in a Long and Bitter Civil War
By Esmer Golluoglu
The Guardian, September 30, 2011
"The scars on their shoulders and backs give it away. Its leaders may suggest otherwise, but Burma is a country riven by the world's longest running civil war. And the pawns are the Burmese convicts forced to work as porters on the frontlines. Made to carry heavy supplies, they are regularly beaten and used as human shields against landmines. Those who have escaped form a growing underclass of refugees on the Thai border, where they eke out a meagre living and face deportation at any time. 'I work for a day, eat for a day but I am now free,' said Thay Utoo Ong at the secret location where he and three others met the Guardian. 'With the army, I had to carry 35kg of water on my back for 13 hours every day, without food or water. I knew I was going to die if I stayed ... I would either starve to death or be shot dead. In January, the 32-year-old was one of 1,200 convicts taken to bolster a military offensive against ethnic insurgents. Many were subjected to torture or summary executions, or placed directly in the line of fire, recounted Maung Nyunt. 'One porter stepped on a mine and lost his leg; he was screaming but the soldiers left him there,' he added. 'When we came back down the mountain he was dead. I looked up and saw bits of his leg in a tree.' Since 1948 the Burmese army, or Tatmadaw, has been fighting a civil war against armed groups including the Karen, whose members want greater autonomy and an end to what they describe as ethnic cleansing.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

WORK (Iraq)

Mass Grave in Iraqi Town Held Bodies of 40 Cabbies
By Michael S. Schmidt
The New York Times, September 11, 2011
"Iraq has been so inured by years of war, terrorism and sectarian strife that what would be a horrific crime of shocking proportions in most countries has gone barely noticed here. Several days ago, a mass grave was unearthed in Dujail, a town about 35 miles north of Baghdad. That was not unusual. Iraq is littered with such graves, some from the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein, others from the sectarian bloodletting that erupted after the American invasion. Dujail, in fact, is best known for a mass killing, that of 148 of its men and boys by Mr. Hussein’s forces after a failed attempt to assassinate him there in 1982. That was the case Mr. Hussein was hanged for in 2006. But this mass grave, security officials said, was the work of a gang of killers who had kidnapped and killed 40 Baghdad taxi drivers over the last two years in order to steal their cars. The police said the crime was unprecedented as far as they knew. But one would be hard pressed to find a mention of the killings in the Iraqi news media or on the street. Asked about the killings, a member of Parliament from Salahuddin Province, which includes Dujail, offered the standard critique of lax Iraqi security. 'Those areas are not being controlled by the security forces,' said the lawmaker, Suhad Fahil Hamid al-Obedi. 'Unfortunately, we are suffering from a weakness of our security forces.' The police said that the gang had stolen dozens of taxis over the last two years, killing the drivers and burying them in Dujail.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


"Duan Biansheng, one of many unmarried men in the 'bachelor village' of Banzhushan in Hunan province." (Tania Branigan)
China's Village of the Bachelors: No Wives in Sight in Remote Settlement
By Tania Branigan
The Guardian, September 2, 2011
"He wants a wife, of course. But ask what kind of woman he seeks and Duan Biansheng looks perplexed. 'I don't have any requirements at all,' said the 35-year-old farmer. 'I would be satisfied with just a wife.' His prospects of finding one, he added, are 'almost zero'. There are dozens of single men in Banzhushan village, perched high on a remote mountain peak in central Hunan province -- and not one unattached woman of marriageable age. Tens of millions of men across China face a future as bachelors. They are a source of pity, not envy, in a country where having children is central to life. Duan worries about growing old with no one to care for him. He chafes at the unhelpful pressure to wed from his parents and neighbours. The worst thing of all is the loneliness. This is the perverse outcome of the country's longstanding preference for sons, and its sudden modernisation. Traditionally, the family line is passed via men. When a woman marries, she joins her husband's family. Having a boy is a cultural and a pragmatic choice: you expect him to continue your lineage and support you in old age. The result has long been a surplus of men, because of female infanticide or excess female deaths through neglect. But in the last 20 years, the problem has exploded thanks to the spread of prenatal scans.