Sometimes the sound overhead is a surveillance drone. Other times, it’s an approaching airstrike.
Since the military in Burma attempted a coup in early 2021, fear, scarcity and violence have become the norm in parts of the country. As of January 2023, the junta has conducted at least 600 airstrikes against everyone from school children to resistance fighters, according to the BBC.
The military’s escalating brutality has forced farmers off their lands, leaving fields fallow and harvests non-existent. Hunger is becoming another weapon of the military.
It could be hard to think about the future amid such a precarious present.
“There are desperate humanitarian needs... Only civil society organizations can access communities to provide emergency support,” says an activist, who we won’t name for their safety.
“We will risk our lives to deliver the food.”
But the civil society organizations Inter Pares supports in Burma are doing double duty: providing emergency support to communities and building the systems they need for a democratic future.
One of these groups is a Karenni organization we are not naming for security reasons. From setting up water services in temporary encampments for protesters who fled the junta, to collaborating to plan an Indigenous protected conservation area, they are balancing today’s needs and tomorrow’s hopes.
The planned Thawthi Karenni Indigenous Park will be more than a conservation area. It will be a political statement – an act of self-determination in a country where autonomy is brutally punished.
Despite the army attacking the area throughout 2022, our counterpart worked with 80 villages and Indigenous communities to map out their borders and stitch together the outline of the Indigenous protected area. The result is more than 2,100 square kilometres of locally managed land where the people who care for it can live, work and grow food.
This is how our Karenni counterpart nurtures hope: supporting communities with their daily needs, while taking steps toward a peaceful future they can own.