Monday, January 18, 2010
  The law of unintended consequences
Burma's military leader General Than Shwe at a camp for cyclone victims on the outskirts of Rangoon, 18 May 2008. Autumn Kelly with her father and bridesmaids. (Montage by sugarexpletive)
I have commented before on how the most significant changes technology brings (especially on a long view) are often unforeseen and usually unintended. The same is often true of military and political decisions.

I doubt the Great King Nebuchadnezzar, or even the far greater and probably more admirable Emperor Cyrus, intended to turn the tribal religion of a peripheral hill country people into a faith that changed the religious outlook of the world. (Judaism being mother to Christianity and later perhaps Islam.)

On another blog I tell how the evil intentions of Sen. Gen. Than Shwe and his fellow kleptocrats in Burma have also had unintended but perhaps profound consequences.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009
  Refugee camp threatened
The refugee camp where I taught a class on Old Testament Narrative for a four week intensivelast year is being threatened by armed attack. The DKBA a proxy force equipped and paid for by the Myanmar Junta is threatening to attack the camp across the nearby border. The Irawaddy reports:
Burmese refugees at Mae La refugee camp are on alert due to a threat of attack by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), according to the vice chairman of the camp. 

“The DKBA said they will destroy our camp,” said Vice-Chairman Htun Htun, speaking to The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

Many of the refugees have packed clothing and belongings in preparation for a military assault, sources in nearby Mae Sot said. Camp authorities have imposed a curfew of 9 p.m. On all refugee residents.

The DKBA threatened to attack Mae La camp after one of their influential commanders, San Pyote (aka Soe Myint), the head of Battalion 7, was ambushed and killed by an unknown armed group while traveling by longtail boat on the Moei River on June 26.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009
  Another ethical dilemma
Bryan in the comments neatly sidesteps my ethical dilemma in the post below Moral decision?. Our cat he says can be regarded as a "member of the family".

I don't want to address the complex issues of whether canines, felines etc... are more or less "members of the family" than brothers and sisters in Christ - both are only so in metaphorical (or spiritual) senses ;)
Karen villagers, mostly women and children, take refuge from the fighting inside the Thai border.
Photo from The National
Courtesy Free Burma Rangers

So here's a new dilemma, also caused by our move. The new house has no TV aerial, but has a Sky dish (for pay TV but which will capture also free to air digital TV). Should I:
  1. spend $200 for a Freeview set top box which will allow us to get free to air TV from the Sky dish
  2. spend $150 to get an aerial fitted
  3. send the money to Partners for the 4,000 villagers camping in the monsoon rains?
Incidentally if you want to donate for the 4,000 villagers chased from their homes here are links (donations are usually tax deductable in most of these countries):

Canadians wishing to obtain a receipt for tax purposes should make donations at the Partners Canada website.

Americans wishing to obtain a receipt for tax purposes should make donations at the Partners USA website.

Norwegians can find the information needed to make donations in Norway at:

Australians can find the information needed to make donations in Australia at:

UK Residents can find the information needed to make donations in the UK at:

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Monday, June 15, 2009
  Moral decision?
We faced a choice during our move that had nothing to do with packing or even the things we own (too many, but that's another story ;).

For the move, Quizzie (our cat - born a stray and somewhat nervous) went into a cattery. While she was there the vet looked her over as well as getting her vaccinations up to date. She has bad teeth and some gum disease. To fix this and to do a blood test to check on other possible health issues would cost $400 to $500 (even cleanng a cat's teth needs a general anesthetic).
At the same time, an Internally Displaced People's camp in Burma is under attack by Burmese government forces. Some 4,000 women and children have fled across the river to Thailand and there is a great need for basic supplies. So, assuming we have $500 we can spend what do we do? Prolong our beloved cat's life and make the next few years more pleasant for her? - After all we see her every day! Save the lives of a few refugees we may never meet?

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Thursday, September 18, 2008
  Letter to my MP, second installment
It's a fortnight since I wrote a Letter to my MP and the Hon Phil Goff has so far failed to reply. I'm sure if I had written about gangs, or tax cuts or some other issue the media have decided are important in the recently announced election his staff would have sent me a stock reply. But, write about Burma and (even though he was not so very long ago our foreign minister) Mr Goff is lost for words, and so are his staff :(

This is sad, not only for what it says about the place of Burma on the NZ political agenda, but also because it underlines the way in which the NZ Labour Party has lost its heart. The NZ Labour Party today is so busy jostling for power, and after so many years of power one suspects Lord Acton's dictum may have some applicability, that they have no time to care about justice overseas, and little to care about making a decent society in New Zealand.

So, I've written to him again (this time using a simple e-card that you could use too if you are willing to spend 20 seconds to protest at the inactivity or your government in the face of brutality):

I wrote to you a fortnight ago, but have had not even a token reply. I fear that means you are too busy worrying about the election.

You should know that I am one voter who cares more about justice than vote-winning tricks. In previous General Elections I have always hoped, prayed, and voted for a Labour government. But since it seems on the issue of Burma and on so many others the Labour Party has lost its vision for a decent society in New Zealsand and for justice and peace internationally this time I fear I may have to vote for change.

I am deeply sad to be deprived of the opportunity to vote for these ideals.

Yours faithfully,

Tim Bulkeley
I plan to continue to write, and to continue to post the letters here, until I get a reply to comment on...

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Thursday, September 11, 2008
  Mixed emotions?
Do watch this video. Does it make you laugh? Did it make you cry? How do you respond to something like this?

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008
  Letter to my MP
I have only written to my MP a very few times in my four decades as a voter, so you could hardly call me a political activist ;) But this morning I have written to the Hon Phil Goff who is the MP for my constituency. I reproduce the letter here, in the hopes that others might want to write something similar to their representatives.

Email to my Representative the Hon Phil Goff MP

Dear Mr Goff,

I am writing to you, as you are my constituency MP, and a previous Foreign Minister, and because I imagine that the Prime Minister who is (I believe) standing in as Foreign Minister currently is probably even busier than you are ;)

I am puzzled that a Labour-led government (who I would expect to be concerned for basic human rights and dignity) does not seem to have been at all active in taking steps to encourage a resolution to the twenty year old conflict in Burma where a military junta, which assumed power in the wake of protests at a previous military government, has been systematically and brutally suppressing all dissent, refusing to negotiate with either the current opposition or with the political party elected by an overwhelming majority in the last free elections, and instead setting up a bogus process which is intended to cement their own rule. The junta is guilty of documented crimes against humanity, including the use of forced labour and rape as a weapon, in their suppression of ethnic minorities.

I have not written to a politician on such a topic before, but the latest case just seems so disgusting (see the account below this message) and comes only days after we signed a free trade deal which includes the Myanmar (Burma) Junta among its beneficiaries, that I felt this time I could not simply stand by and ignore my country's complicity in these crimes.

[Account of the rape of Nhkum Hkawn Din from Sarah Armitage, Partners UK & Childcare Projects Coordinator.

On 27th July 2008 near Nam Sai village, Kachin State, Nhkum Hkawn Din left her house to take food to her brother who was working in a paddy field on their parent's farm. When her brother returned home later that day not having seen her, the family realised that something was wrong. After searching most of the evening, she was reported missing.

Towards the end of the third day of searching, her clothes and shoes were found alongside the basket she had been carrying to her brother. Her body, naked and mutilated, was finally found only 200 metres away from a Burma Army checkpoint. According to family members she had been gang raped and then further violated with knives. Her skull had been crushed beyond recognition and her facial features obliterated. Her eyes had been gouged out and her throat was cut. She had also been stabbed in the stomach and on her right side.

Local witnesses say that they saw Nhkum Hkawn Din being followed by Burma Army soldiers on her way to the paddy field and that they saw the soldiers, one of who was recognised as a Colonel, leave the area a little later on.

The local army commanders have admitted that one of their lower ranking soldiers, Soe Thu Win, carried out the attack. He was recognised by witnesses during a line-up and later confessed under interrogation. It has been stated that he will be sentenced to 20 years in jail without trial. The Colonel was not interrogated and has since been relocated.

The family have been offered $500 plus some food (1 bag of rice, cooking oil, 5 cans of milk and some sugar) as compensation.

There has been no official investigation and once again the Burma Army are getting away with murder.

Rape is systematically used as a weapon of war against ethnic minorities in Burma, more than a thousand cases have been documented. There is also a culture of impunity, where no action is taken against soldiers who rape. On June 19th The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1820 noting that rape and sexual violence can be described as a crime against humanity.]

Yours faithfully,

Tim Bulkeley

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Friday, August 08, 2008
I've just joined a frivolous Facebook group 888,888 Members by 08/08/08! My reason for joining was anything but frivolous though, today - or tomorrow for those living in less (chronologically) advanced countries - is the 20th anniversary of the 8888 Uprising, when a bunch of unarmed students looked set to topple the brutal dictator in Burma.

A couple of years later
, in 1990, despite brutal repression Aung San Suu Kyi and her party won the general election - would you vote for peace when a soldier with a gun was urging you to vote for the generals?

Burma is still ruled by a junta who do not care at all for the people, but only for their own pleasure and power. Remember how they responded to the cyclone in May?

So, join the 08/08/08 group, make today the day you pray, and speak for Burma. At least watch some YouTube...

PS, if you want to do a little more you could pray for Burma during the time of the anniversary of the uprising, I'll be posting suggested topics and other resources on another blog the first suggestion, for today 08/08/08/ is there now.


Monday, July 14, 2008
  Burmese dinner and cultural evening: for Cyclone relief
I am having reverse "senior moments", I remember writing a post about the Cyclone Nargis fundraising dinner BCNZ the West Auckland Burmese community are putting on, with Burmese food and dancing and songs from Karen, Kachin and Chin groups, but it was not here when Miriam sent me a notice about it this morning :(

So, here, I hope not too late for you to sign up, is a link to the invitation, and extracts of the details, it is:

  • organised by the Burmese Christian Fellowship,
  • on Sunday July 20th from 5pm till 7pm
  • $25 per person includes food, entertainment and donation to Cyclone Nargis relief (organised informally through contacts on the spot)
  • at Bible College of New Zealand (if it has not changed its name by then ;) 221 Lincoln Rd, Henderson, traffic light entrance opposite Pak N Save, "entrance through the muli-storey brick building at the end of the drive"
  • please pay in advance to:
    • Adrienne Coats 837 1507
    • Paul Long 818 3874
    • Khun Aung 630 8975
    • David Thorpe 826 0864
If anyone needs lift from over our way please contact me!

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Friday, June 20, 2008
  World Refugee Day
Today, June 20th, is World Refugee Day. There are lots of ways you can "celebrate" it. But if you are stuck for ideas, perhaps it means you do not know much about the issues, in that case how about ten minutes surfing and exploring to learn more. For facts and figures the UNHCR is authoritative, and the IMC has a good one page summary.

If you prefer a more experiential approach you could read about the Mae La refugee camp, or look at one of the photoblogs: Timelight @ Mae La - Weblog or through valleys of sorrow to rivers of joy which has more than photos. In particular you could read the rest of this post:
pray, yes, but we still can't eat your prayers

While the faith and the spirits of the people I met in Mae La were strong, their current physical conditions are matters of concern. Registration froze two years ago. People who come to the camp--four or five new families everyday--are not given food rations or materials to build huts because they are not registered. They must move in with other refugees and those who open their huts must share what they have with the new-comers. Already, cuts have been made in the amount of food they receive twice a month.
Whatever you do, do NOT just sit there, do something even if it is only to cry a little!

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Monday, June 16, 2008
  Burmese noodle salad (a warm salad!)
We've been eating less meat, since the kids are leaving home (they are all confirmed and voracious carnivores ;-) among the recipes I've found useful is this warm Noodle Salad from Burma. We watched it being prepared at Borderline in Mae Sot when we did a cookery course there. I wish I had taken a photo of the meal since their version looked a lot more appetising than the one I prepared over the weekend - in a hurry as we were reorganising the kitchen all afternoon :(

  • wheat noodles (ideally from your local Asian store, not rice noodles, but almost Tagliatelle - which you could probably use if stuck, though it is not the same) enough for the number you are feeding I'll give quantities for 4 as a main.
  • vegetables (ideally gourd, but corgettes work quite well and carrot is OK...)
  • cabbage 1-2 handsfull
  • spring onions a few
  • beansprouts 1.5 cups
  • hard tofu one block (depending on size)
  • corriander 4-5 plants
  • red onions 2 small
  • yellow bean powder 0.5-1 teacup (a mix of 50/50 soya powder and ground up peanuts works fine)
  • rice flour 5 tsp
  • chilli powder 1-2tsp
  • turmeric 1tsp
  • garlic 4-5 cloves (or if you can find it packeted crispy fried garlic)
  • oil for deep frying (in a wok is traditional) use 1/2 teacup of this later for the spices
Below my clumsy hurried thick cut version,
above Borderline's delicate Burmese version!
Mix rice flour with water to make a creamy paste (if you use courgettes you should add extra rice flour to make the cream thick as courgettes are watery and risk going soggy not crisp in the salad).

Slice the cabbage, spring onions thinly, slice the onions and garlic even thinner (keep the garlic separate), and chop the coriander (roughly as you want some whole or nearly whole leaves as well as some cut finer.

Cut the vegetable into small (finger size) pieces. Cut the tofu similarly. Coat in the rice flour cream and fry till crisp and golden.

Mix the chilli, garlic and turmeric and pour over 1/2 cup of hot oil (the mixture will fizz up and the spices will cook to perfection) to make a dressing.

Dry fry the bean powder till it darkens, do not burn it!

Cook the noodles and drain, washing in cold water so they stick less.

Assemble by mixing the noodles, dressing, bean powder and salad, use the gourd (carrot or courgette) and tofu to decorate. Eat ideally while still warm.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Cyclone survivors work to rebuild their house destroyed by Cyclone Nargis - 22/05/08The BBC has a report on the welcome announcement that the generals who rule the country they call Myanmar will at last allow humanitarian aid in to the 2.5 million worst affected by the cyclone on May 2. Read between the lines it tells of the perverse priorities and and care behind the generals earlier refusal. I've said before and will say again these men are not stupid, just evil.

In Thailand UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened a new base to speed
up aid for victims of the cyclone, which killed 78,000 and left 56,000

Meanwhile polls closed in the final stage of a controversial Burmese referendum on a new constitution.

Yes it would have been a shame if foreigners should witness the "referendum" they might be confused by the armed soldiers present at polling booths to make sure there was no misunderstanding. They could get the impression that this important referendum designed to ensure the generals' grip on power and dress it with a fine cloak of "democracy" was less than free and fair.
The UN estimates that only a quarter of the 2.5 million Burmese affected by the cyclone have received the help they need.

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Monday, May 12, 2008
  Cyclone Nargis and the coherence of Amos 7
The title may seem somewhat incongruous, and I am sorry I do not have a grand theory that will demonstrate that Cyclone Nargis is the hermeneutic key to this chapter ;-) But the two are related...

Both explain my lack of posts here recently:
  • since Cylcone Nargis hit Burma/Myanmar I have used my blogging time to provide updates on the relief effort, and as I get information how the Karen people have been impacted.
  • because my writing time this sabbatical was shortened by teaching elsewhere I am trying to finish polishing an article on the coherence of Amos 7:1-8:3
Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible... in the meanwhile do read the other posts.

1. Burma is the country whose military rulers have chosen to call "Myanmar" both English versions refer to the same geographical location, but may indicate a political, or - in view of the generals' behaviour - humanitarian, bias.


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