Category Archives: buried under work, alive

Sometimes we find some time to write a few lines about our work.

Burma Center Prague’s online dictionary hits the 1 mio mark

screenshot of the dictionary

And the ad banner says: "Life is searching". So true.

Whoohoo! I was waiting for the right moment when the counter would jump across the 1,000,000 mark. OK, I missed it. Never mind.

So, what’s next? We have some plans to integrate the dictionary into the upcoming activities. Until then, enjoy it in its unspoiled beauty at ;-)

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Birthday event for Aung San Suu Kyi

Here are some photos we took at the birthday event for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, as part of a global campaign. It was mainly organized by the organization People in Need and we contributed cartoons by Harn Lay and some words by our director.
One of the main reasons why we still held this event although the Lady is already released from house arrest are the over 2000 political prisoners in Burma. They are the proof that there is a lot wrong about the present Burmese “democracy”.

Check out our photos:

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More attention needs to focus on Chin State

Today, a report entitled “Life Under the Junta: Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity in Burma’s Chin State” was released by the organization Physicians for Human Rights. This report is extremely important for Burma, for the Chin people, and for our work.

For Burma

“Despite the November 2010 electoral exercise, the military still controls all branches of government in Burma. PHR calls for an official Commission of Inquiry on Burma, whose mandate should be to investigate violations of human rights and humanitarian law and to identify perpetrators of such abuses.”

While the world public appears to be paralised by the happy news about Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s release, the nations of ASEAN predictably started to call for an end of sanctions against Burma, asserting that the elections have been “conducive and transparent”, as the Indonesian Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa, puts it motivated by certainly anything else but the promotion of truth and human well-being.

It is perfect timing when these cynical strategists and businessmen have to find answers now to the hard facts that this report has produced. Global leaders cannot be reminded often enough about the relevance and universal validity of human rights and the interests of the powerless.

For the Chin people

“While the horrors of military rule in Eastern Burma have been better known and documented, we know much less about Burma’s Western regions, including Chin State, on Burma’s border with the Indian State of Mizoram.”

It is a tragic momentum in the suffering of Burma’s people that the lack of resources – and I am also talking about public attention – has led to a situation where crises seem to compete, like those in West and in East Burma. Historical disagreements between ethnic groups contribute to this unfortunate constellation. Our organization, the Burma Center Prague, has already two years ago drawn the conclusion to engage for West Burma, because systematic support has so far mainly streamed through Thailand. The proximity of West Burma to India gives a deceptive impression that friends are near. Although India is the world’s largest democracy, this fact, however, doesn’t seem to prevent it’s government’s from supporting the Burmese regime for its own economic and strategic interests.

It is crucial to emphasize that the west of Burma needs to be included in our considerations. It should, however, not replace the eastern regions. The cause for both crises, as distant as they may be, is largely the same and has its roots in Naypyidaw.

For the Chin people it will be very helpful that an organization operated by others than their countrymen confirms their own findings. The results are as clear as they could be:

“Nearly 92 percent of the households interviewed reported at least one episode of forced labor, such as portering of military supplies or building roads.”

Human Rights Violations in Chin State. Source: Physicians for Human Rights

Human Rights Violations in Chin State. Source: Physicians for Human Rights

The author Physicians for Human Rights even suggests that the atrocities committed amount to Crimes Against Humanity.

For our work

It has happened today, in the morning: The counter on made a leap to the 100% mark.

That means: Thanks to our supporters, we hit the second goal of our famine relief campaign – incredible 300,000 CZK. We obviously decided to raise our goal to half a million – money that is desperately needed to buy food and medicine for Burmese suffering from famine in Chin State.

The report of Physicians for Human Rights confirmed our conviction that our help really goes there where it is needed. If you decide to make major changes in your life to dedicate your energy to charitable goals, there is nothing better than knowing that your efforts make perfect sense.

But it is still a long way to go. Thank you for joining us!

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Focus on Burma, on Journalism, and on NGOs

Focus on Burma 2010 - Zaotřeno na Barmu 2010Again, one big amount of work taking our days and nights has finally fallen off from our shoulders:

Focus on Burma 2010 is out!

You may notice that this issue contains only 28 pages (including the cover). A rigidly reduced budget for this year cannot pass unseen. The front page, however, has gained some colors while the inner block remains black and white.

More than thousand words is worth a table of contents. So here you go:

Independendent Burmese Journalism

Zarni Mann: Freedom of the Press Still a Mystery in Burma

Jaromír Marek: Where is the Burmese Media Heading?

Media and Activities for Burma

Tereza Blahoutová: The Presentation of Burmese Refugees in Czech Media

Christoph Amthor: Escaping Invisibility

Resettlement to the Czech Republic: Info Boxes

Facts and Figures About the Resettlement of Burmese Refugees

Activities and Support Provided by Burma Center Prague, o.p.s.

We are happy that this year we can again offer a bilingual issue, emphasizing our local positioning and global ambitions.

Please download your copy from this page.

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Twin-Event in Ústí

The ultimate benchmark for truly devoted Burma campaigners: getting up before dawn to catch the train to a day-long event in Northern Bohemia. You don’t even have time to sniff at your coffee before running out into the cold night.

Thanks to not less devoted partners on the Ústí side, at the Faculty of Science of the local University who integrated Burma into their Week of Geography, it all went well and our presentations on Burma, short films about the Cyclone Nargis and Burmese refugees in the Czech Republic and the classic “Burma VJ”, as well as the tasting of Burmese food, fair trade items and the exhibition of Harn Lay’s cartoons were well appreciated.

Once you spend a day for an event, it is really difficult to stop. So we came next day again to Ústí, but this time to the ZOO. Together with the bears Barma and Myanmar and many Burmese refugees – who brought traditional Chin and Kachin dishes – we enjoyed a great afternoon with food, a quizz, the opening of the exhibition, our campaign video, Burmese children reciting Czech rhymes, fair trade items produced by Burmese grassroots groups and, one of the highlights, the bears climbing around in their compound in search of fruits and cups of yogurt.

Many thanks to our partners, the refugees, the people from the Aněžka School in Ústí, the bears … and the visitors who not only filled the rooms but actively participated!

This probably has been our last bigger event for this year. We are now focusing on finalizing the “Indian” project and this year’s edition of our annual publication Focus on Burma. Stay tuned.

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What’s the difference between Myanmar and Burma?

Web statistics are a funny thing, and the most curious about them is certainly the list of search terms that bring visitors from search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing to a web site. If you run a site about Burma, you find search terms like myanmar, mranmar, nyanmar and so on, in all kinds of variations. But the most astonishing thing is the huge number of people who are confused about the two names for country, language, people and many places after the regime decided to change Burma’s history and identity.

Hundreds of people submit their confusion in form of a direct question: “are burma and myanmar the same?”, “what’s the difference between miranmar and burma?” or, in a variation that reveals a deeper familiarity with the issue, “difference rangoon yangon”. We are happy that we can offer to these poor searchers the liberating reading of Bertil Lintner’s analysis, who simply refutes the junta’s lame argument that the new name is more consistent in itself, that it does not discriminate against ethnic minorities, and that it avoids a colonialist point of view. Of course, what’s in a name? The question here is about the legitimization of rule and the accountability of rulers, rather than etymology. One day we all might say “Myanmar”. Or something else.

But: We have recently identified another difference between “Myanmar” and “Burma” (“Barma” in Czech language). On December 18, 2006, half a year after the foundation of Burma Center Prague, two sun bears arrived in the north Bohemian town of Ústí. They were from the zoo in Rangoon (or, yes, “Yangon”) and now the new Czech owners at the Ústí Zoo, who have probably saved them from being sold to a circus, faced the problem of finding good names for them. The solution probably points to a typical trait of Czech humor that helps people escape from any imaginable kind of mental trap: The male bear was called “Myanmar” and the female “Barma” – perfectly matching the Czech grammar that mainly uses consonants as the ending of masculine nouns and the concluding “A” as a marker for feminine gender.

Given this wise decision in Northern Bohemia, we sought to establish a cooperation with zoo and bears. The present result is a blog, “written” by the two bears, and two events on November 19 and 20. While the latter one will take place directly at the zoo, the former one is planned at the Faculty of Science of the Ústí University. The reason for their involvement lies in the fact that last year they adopted the bear Myanmar.

So, at the end of the day we can offer a second answer to the question that continues to give people sleepless nights: The difference between Myanmar and Burma is … well, check it out yourself at the Ústí Zoo. But don’t get too close.

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Check out our new campaign video

We have published a new campaign video and you can watch it right here:




Our special thanks go to Jakub who produced that awesome film! It was certainly not an easy task to pack the Burma Center’s restless activism into 10 minutes brimming with images and information.

As you have noticed, we have decided to combine both Czech and English language into one film, true to our idea of multinational cooperation in the light of international responsibility.

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The micro-grants are out. What’s next?

Propagation of campaigns in the non-profit sector is a challenge and certainly a worthwhile experience. Moreover, having at one’s disposal an unimpressive Czech-sized budget for advertising doesn’t make things much easier. Basically, this leaves you with two options: Either you send hordes of indulgent volunteers through the country and let them knock on every door to hand out home-made leaflets. Or you resort – as is so common – to the World Wide Web.

No doubt, this makes perfect sense if you are aiming to promote a campaign that has its backbone on the Net anyway.

The evolution of our ads: a very short history

We decided to target supportive-minded people on Facebook to draw their attention to our micro-grant program. The experiences from Amnesty International ČR were encouraging, and so are now the statistics for our web site. Unlike web banners you can on Facebook quite precisely match the ad to specific countries, language users etc., provided that its users have given all that precious information in their personal profile. Which, I must admit, I haven’t.

This is now how our three ads look, which luckily managed to pull hundreds of new people to our pages. Note the almost invisible fine-tuned evolution! ;-)

Our first ad. And yes: I like it!

Our second ad, the first in English.

Our third ad, again in Czech.

The photographs, just to duly mention the source, were taken from two of the supported health care projects, the Health Care Centre for Burmese Refugees (I suffer with that scared woman in the front whose hand is being pricked) and the Yamuna Clinic where Dr. Tint Swe can be seen puncturing a patient’s thorax (I’m feeling even more sympathy for that brave woman).

I remember the conditions at that clinic in west Delhi – two small rooms, the equipment extremely simple, during the rainy season operations are carried out under the umbrella due to the dripping from the ceiling. Outside, the refugees patiently queue down the staircase and along the little road. It is amazing how much Dr. Tint Swe is still able to do with so few resources, including health education and a blog presenting medical cases and general knowledge relevant to refugees!

Of course, no campaign is feasible without the devoted support of journalists. Rumor has it that charitable topics make it into Czech media even during the silly season. But just to be on the safe side we have decided to arrange a media partner, Radio Wave, not to mention the numerous other outlets who have also provided awesome help.

So much for propagation. But what’s next?

Paralyzed by the statistics of our web pages, I have to shake myself up for the next load of activities, many of which will take place right inside India and need to be arranged right now. More on that later when the time comes. And yes, even though we have to turn our backs for a while on the propagation of the micro-grants program, of course it has not finished yet. As usual in the non-profit sector, word-of-mouth will do its brilliant magic and carry on the news among like-minded supporters.

In only two weeks we have already collected a total amount of  22,000 Czech crowns, which equals approximately €890 or US$1,160. In my humble opinion a terrific start.

Please help us by continuing to spread the word. Thank you!

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