Rights group accuses Myanmar troops of ethnic cleansing - Daily Times - Site Edition - Monday, March 27, 2006:
BANGKOK: The military has in recent weeks launched attacks on several ethnic Karen villages in western Myanmar, forcing thousands to flee their homes and go into hiding, a rights group said.
Hundreds of troops have attacked at least six villages and townships in Karen state, according to The Free Burma Rangers, an advocacy group that works inside the impoverished country that is also known as Burma. Troops have terrorised villagers and destroyed scores of homes, the group said.
“All of these attacks are occurring in a North-South line stretching from Toungoo to Shwe Gyin, roughly at the junction of the plains and mountains,” the group said in a statement posted on its Web site on Tuesday. “It seems to be aimed at cutting off all support for the resistance as well as stopping all rice, medicine and other needed material from reaching the displaced people who are living in these areas.”
A spokesman for the Myanmar government could not be immediately reached for comment.
Karen guerrillas have been fighting for independence from Myanmar for more than five decades in one of the longest-running insurgencies in the world. They began peace talks with the junta in 2003 and later reached a provisional truce, but sporadic fighting has continued.
The violence against the Karen and scores of other insurgent groups over the years has spawned an estimated one million internal refugees, and another 400,000 who have fled to neighbouring Thailand, refugee aid group the Burma Border Consortium said earlier this year.
The conflict wracking eastern Myanmar has destroyed some 3,000 villages and displaced 80,000 people a year in most recent times, the group claimed.
The 2004 ouster of Gen Khin Nyunt, who negotiated cease-fires with 17 insurgent groups, reinforced hard-liners within the junta and “resulted in increasing hostility directed at ethnic minority groups,” US-based Human Rights Watch said in its 2006 report.
Myanmar has been a pariah to the West since 1990, when its military rulers refused to hand over power to the Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League of Democracy after it won elections. Suu Kyi has been in detention for almost 10 of the last 16 years.
Malaysia’s foreign minister and special ASEAN envoy Syed Hamid Albar said it was regrettable that he could not meet with Aung San Suu Kyi during his trip to Myanmar. Syed Hamid Albar, who begun his long-delayed visit on Thursday, left the military-run country on Friday night, one day early than scheduled, without being allowed to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent most of the last 16 years in jail or under house arrest.
“I told them that it would have been better if I had been allowed to meet Suu Kyi and other political leaders as it would be a step towards their democratic reform,” Sunday’s New Sunday Times quoted him as saying.
“The reason given for the prohibition was that Suu Kyi is under house arrest and nobody is allowed to see her,” he said.
Syed Hamid, however, said his early departure from the country was because he had completed his work there, and insisted the mission was a success. During his visit, Syed Hamid met with Myanmar Prime Minister Soe Win, Foreign Minister Nyan Win and several junta-related officials.
Syed Hamid said he had told Soe Win that Myanmar had to convince the international community that it was committed to democratic reforms. “While ASEAN has a policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states, we sent across a message that they need to convince not only ASEAN but the international community that they are making democratic progress,” he said. Agencies