By Shannon Sommerauer
The testifiers in the third and final session of testimony spoke to violations of economic, social and cultural rights which continue systematically across Burma. The testifiers related their experiences of forced relocation, forced labour and living as displaced people, either in the jungles of Burma or as refugees beyond its borders. Consistently, they described the breakdown of community and their loss of “home”.
One testifier described her family’s ties to her home village: “In the old village, all my siblings were born. All my siblings grew up there. We also had our plantations, which gave us life”. Another testifier said that though her family moved back and forth over the border many times to escape government oppression, they “always preferred to be in Burma, because it was where we felt was home”.
This testifier asked us to remember that while these stories are common across Burma, we should never allow ourselves to consider them normal. The human rights violations we have heard about today cannot be tolerated, and the time to act is now.
This last group of testifiers expressed deep concern for future generations. Forced relocation over generations, lack of education, poverty and continued violence pose real risks for the future of Burma. As we sit here, awaiting the judges’ final statement, I hope that the stories of these brave and resilient women will resonate with the international community as they have with those of us here in the auditorium today.
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