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Fresh Evidence of Gross Human Rights Violations

CSW (12/07/06) – Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has returned this week from a fact-finding visit to the Thai-Burmese border, with fresh evidence of gross violations of human rights perpetrated by Burma’s military regime against the Karen, Karenni and Shan ethnic groups.

CSW visited Internally Displaced People (IDPs) inside Karen and Shan States in eastern Burma, and heard first-hand testimony of forced labour, torture, looting and the destruction of villages, crops and livestock.

This year, the Burma Army has mounted its biggest offensive against the Karen since 1997. At least 25,000 Karen civilians have been displaced. The Free Burma Rangers, a relief group working in the conflict areas, report that at least 50 people have been killed. One man, Saw They Shur, was burned alive in his home at Play Hta village near Hoki, in Toungoo District on 1 November.

The offensive particularly affects four northern districts in Karen State – Toungoo, Nyaunglebin, Papun and Thaton districts. CSW visited IDPs who have fled these areas to an IDP camp near the border with Thailand. CSW’s Advocacy Officer, Benedict Rogers, said: “The situation is dire. Almost 70 people had arrived in the camp the day we were there. We heard that 400 came the next day. People are pouring in each day, rising from 2,000 to 3,000 within just a few weeks. There are not enough medicines or food for them all. But those who reach the IDP camp are the lucky ones compared with those who are in hiding in the jungle, on the run, hunted by the Burma Army.”

CSW interviewed some of the new arrivals in the IDP camp, and heard stories of the regime’s atrocities. “When the SPDC sees people, they don’t arrest them anymore. They shoot,” one man told CSW. “They kill even children and babies.”

One man told CSW how he had been jailed, and beaten so severely that he lost his sight in one eye. He had been subjected to water torture, electric shocks to his genitals and covered with red ants. “They come hunting people. Whatever they see in the jungle, they steal, burn and destroy. They steal pots, clothes, everything from people’s homes. I dare not return to my village. There is no hope, no place for me for the future,” he said.

Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of CSW, said: “Each time a team returns from a fact-finding visit to Burma, without fail they come back with new stories of the continuing horrific human rights violations committed by the dictators. The evidence of atrocities – torture, forced labour, religious persecution, rape, destruction of villages, killings – is piling up. It is time for the United Nations Security Council to pass a binding resolution on Burma, requiring the regime to release all political prisoners, open up the country to unhindered access for humanitarian aid, cease its violations of human rights and engage in meaningful dialogue with the democracy groups and ethnic nationalities.”