12 12 2008

July-September, 2008 latest isue

July-September, 2008 latest isue

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Increase in attacks in Karen State

Despite the increase in attacks in Karen State, Burma’s regime once again received welcomes from Burma’s pro-democracy movement and the international community for releasing 9002 prisoners in September, when in fact only seven of them were political prisoners. Many analysts and opposition groups say that the regime has done this to ease the pressure on them for meaningful political reform.

The regime aims to be seen to be doing good on political reform in Rangoon, but on the other hand they increase their joint operations and attacks on ethnic control areas with its proxy Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), a splinter group from the Karen National Union (KNU). Many critics say that it is a tactic by the regime to pull focus on to Rangoon, while increasing their offensive in ethnic areas.

Since early mid 2008, SPDC and DKBA troop operations have been increasing in eastern central Karen State where several villages have been burned down and hundreds of villagers have fled their home because of the fighting, or in order to avoid human rights abuses committed by the DKBA and SPDC troops.

Saw Yan Shin, a CIDKP Dooplaya district field staff member told Inside News that the DKBA burnt down 15 houses in Noh Pway Baw Hta village, Kawkriek Township in Karen State. “On 3rd of June, DKBA troops from Battalion #999 and #907, under Commanders Maung Chit Thoo and Na Kaung Mway, burnt down 15 houses in Noh Pway Baw Hta village a few days after the occurrence of skirmishes with the KNLA [Karen National Liberation Army].”

Saw Yan Shin also added that there are more cases of arbitrary arrest and torture by DKBA troops. “Whenever the fighting occurs during their operations, they arrest villagers from nearby villages or arrest the village chiefs and torture them. Saw Abaw 35, a village chief in K’ Law Gaw village, was beaten until he was bleeding inside and losing blood.”

Furthermore, the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) report on August 29, reported that DKBA troops burnt down houses in Ler Bpoo village, T’ Nay Hsah township, in Pa-an District which has 50 households, forcing villagers to evacuate to make way for their planned new military camp. “On Tuesday, August 26th, 2008, at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, DKBA soldiers from Special Battalion #999 based at the town of Shwe Gko Gkoh in eastern Pa’an District (along Moei River) marched down directly to Ler Bpoo village and, upon arrival, burnt the village to the ground.”

It is alleged that the regime has signed an agreement with the DKBA to clear the KNLA control areas in eastern central Karen State. As the military government is going to hold a general election in 2010, they are trying to eliminate all armed opposition groups prior to this, in order to be seen as ready and moving forward with meaningful political reform.

Meanwhile, villagers in Karen State are being forced out of their home and their belongings are destroyed. They have to flee to the jungle or to the border to avoid the attacks and other human right abuses.

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10 09 2008

Regime punish no voters

Burma’s military government claimed the national referendum vote for their constitution was a resounding success; saying more than 90 percent of people supported it.

But many villagers say the facts behind the regime’s success tell a different story. Villagers spoken to by Inside News allege the regime cheated and bullied their way through the referendum.

Saw Ber Htoo, a district coordinator for the Committee of Internally Displaced Karen People says in Nyaunglegin district that more than 200 villagers who disobeyed the regime’s orders to vote ‘yes’ had to leave their village and take refugee in the mountains.

“The Burma army soldiers told villagers that if they do not go to vote ‘yes’, they would be fined 100,000 Kyat and [sentenced] to three years in jail. The villagers disobeyed and said they are not going even if they have to pay a fine and go to jail.”

After villagers refusal to vote, soldiers restricted their travel and forced them to work as unpaid laborers.

Saw Ber Htoo says villagers are now struggling and have nowhere to live.

“Villagers from these areas have been forced to relocate several times and they do not have land where they live to grow food. They have to forage for food from the jungle.”

Saw Ber Htoo says villagers who stayed are worst off.

“They’re not allowed to go out of the village. The soldiers them forced to work; carrying supplies, building the army camp, collecting wood and bamboo and digging trenches for the soldiers.”

Saw Ber Htoo says this happen more in village tracts where people didn’t vote ‘yes’.

“The Burmese army officially didn’t have to say this is the punishment for not going to vote, but it is obvious because of the increase in forced labor and restrictions on villages that didn’t vote.”

The villagers force to leave are now living in IDPs camps in the jungle and being looked after by the Karen National Union district and township officials but they are low on food and live in fear of attack from the Burma army.