Myanmar: Karen Human Rights Group wins TFD award

The Taiwan Foundation for Democracy announced Nov. 4 its eighth Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award laureate as Thailand-based Karen Human Rights Group.

KHRG is a grassroots nongovernmental organization operating in southeast Myanmar, TFD said. The charity was established in December 1992 by Canadian teacher Kevin Heppner, who began to document human rights violations suffered by Karen civilians after the Myanmar military bombed the village where he lived. KHRG also provides affected communities with documentation, resistance and advocacy skills.

Thailand-based KHRG continues to help villagers in remote areas and minorities who are suffering from persecution, TFD said. KHRG is one of the few organizations capable of systematically documenting these human rights abuses in detail, as has been repeatedly affirmed by international human rights organizations.

According to TFD, KHRG has released 640 human rights reports since establishment in 1992. In July 2011, KHRG released its first joint report with new York-based Human Rights Watch, titled “Dead man walking: Convict porters on the front lines in eastern Burma,” which successfully brought the voices of Karen villagers to an international audience.

TFD was established in June 2003, with the aim of contributing to the international community in return for its long-term support for Taiwan, as well as to connect with global networks promoting democracy and expand ROC participation in related organizations and activities worldwide.

In 2006, TFD instituted the Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award to encourage individuals or groups that have peacefully and actively promoted democracy and human rights in the region.

The award went to Reporters Without Borders in 2006; Dr. Cynthia Maung, founder of the Mae Tao Clinic on the Thai-Burma border in 2007; Dr. Sima Samar, chairperson of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and founder of the Shuhada Organization, in 2008; Kim Seong-min, founder and director of Free North Korea Radio in 2009; India-based Rescue Foundation in 2010; U.S.-based Boat People SOS in 2011; and Thailand-based ECPAT International in 2012.

KHRG was chosen after a two-stage review process, TFD said. The final review panel included Nisuke Ando, director of the Kyoto Human Rights Research Institute and former chair of the UN Human Rights Committee; Alex Boraine, chairperson of International Center of Transitional Justice and former deputy chairperson of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa; Sima Samar; Carolina Hernandez, professor of political science at the University of the Philippines and President of Institute of Strategic and Development Studies, Inc.; Asma Jahangir, chairperson of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and former UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief; TFD Chairman Wang Jin-pyng; and TFD President Huang Teh-fu.

KHRG will formally receive the award at a ceremony held by TFP Dec. 10 in Taipei City. (SDH)