Demonstrators in Canada Call on State Counselor to Address Ethnic Suffering

By Saw Yan Naing 10 June 2017

Demonstrators, including ethnic Karen and Kachin refugees, called on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to listen to the suffering of ethnic people at the hands of the Burma Army at a protest in Toronto, Canada on Friday.

Several dozen demonstrators, some wearing traditional ethnic dress, waved posters, placards and ethnic Kachin and Karen flags at Toronto City Hall.

Demonstration organizer and leader of the Karen Community of Toronto, Naw Sheila Htoo, shouted through a loud speaker: “We are here to show support that she [Daw Aung San Suu Kyi] really needs, we hope our leaders can hear our cries today and bring justice.”

The State Counselor visited Toronto to meet members of the overseas Burmese community as part of her five-day tour of Canada. She travels to Sweden on Saturday.

“There is a great pressure on refugees [from Burma] in Thailand to return to Burma. However, the Burma Army continue to occupy villages and farmland, making return difficult or impossible for many villagers,” Naw Sheila Htoo said.

Demonstrators hold a banner calling for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to ethnic people. (Photo: Karen Community of Canada.)

Protestors called on the Burma Army to end their offensives in Kachin State and for the demilitarization of Karen State, so that refugees can return home.

Posters read: “Demilitarization Before Repatriation,” “Burma Army Get Out of Our Land,” and “Stop Civil War in Kachin State.”

Another placard read: “Welcome Aung San Suu Kyi. Please listen to the cries of our people.” Demonstrators called on Canada not to cooperate with the Burma Army.

Amid concerns over Burma’s peace process by ethnic refugees, Canada’s Prime Minister Trudeau announced US$8.8 million in support for humanitarian assistance and the advancement of peace and stability in Burma.

The announcement came after Burma’s State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi met with Prime Minister Trudeau on Wednesday in Ottawa.

Ethnic Karen refugees in Canada also released an open letter on the arrival of Burma’s State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, raising concerns over the militarization in Karen State while the Union government pushes ahead with the peace process.

Canada and Burma established diplomatic ties when Burma gained independence from the British in 1948. Canada has disbursed more than $95 million to Burma in official development assistance since 2013, according to the prime minister’s website.

A Karen flag at the demonstration in Toronto. (Photo: Karen Community of Canada.)