Burma has become one of the poorest nations on earth while it's leaders have become very rich... and without any care for the suffering of the ordinary people in the country.
New evidence backs claims of genocide in BurmaThe article has also been published in today's Sydney Morning Herald. I hope it gets published in many other newspapers around the world!
By Mike Thomson in Rangoon
Fresh evidence has emerged that Burma's military government, which seized power in 1962 and has since waged a brutal war against rebel ethnic groups, has been carrying out acts of genocide against its own people.
There have been allegations that in the past decade, soldiers have burnt to the ground as many as 3,000 villages and raped, looted or killed many of their inhabitants. Now, a Thai intelligence officer has uncovered what he believes is proof that these were systematic atrocities ordered by the state.
The middle-aged officer, who asked to be identified only as Thau, has spent several years studying intercepted Burmese military communications and analysing material found at the scene of horrific incidents inside Burma.
It was during recent searches of the bodies of Burmese soldiers killed by rebels that the evidence was discovered. "We found some leaflets on the corpse of a Burmese officer," he said. "They said that the minority Shan people are the enemy and have to be destroyed."
When asked whether this referred to Shan or simply Shan fighters, he replied: "It's the Shan race. That's happened with other races, too."
Shan state, which lies just inside Burma's border with Thailand, has seen some of the most brutal battles between rebel fighters and Burmese government soldiers.
Beheadings by troops of the State Peace and Development Council - the official title of Burma's ruling military junta - are common. So too are beatings, the use of forced labour and rape. Growing use of amphetamines among Burma's 400,000-strong army is fuelling this violence.
David Matheson, a narcotics expert from the Australian National University who is based in Thailand, said researchers had concluded that many troops went into battle high on amphetamines. "When they come across dead Burmese soldiers, they find methamphetamine tablets on most of them if not all of them, particularly in the Shan state," he said.
The brutality of the attacks is evident in video footage, taken by members of the evangelical Christian missionary group the Free Burma Rangers, of the burning of villages. The organisation is one of the few to travel deep into the Eastern Burmese forest region where an estimated 500,000 people have been driven from their homes by the military.
The video shows young men, armed with AK47s, setting fire to bamboo homes as residents flee in terror.
The Rangoon government of Gen Than Shwe seems content with the status quo. Its biggest opponent, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, the Nobel Prize-winning leader of the National League for Democracy, remains under house arrest.
Her party's landslide election victory in 1990 has never been recognised by the government, which continues to hold more than 1,100 political prisoners. The junta has been gaining ground in its long-running war with rebel ethnic minority groups such as the Karen, Shan and Karenni. These groups, who are trying to win autonomy from Rangoon, have had to adopt guerilla warfare after sustaining heavy losses.
The Karen's commander, Gen Mu Tu See, is not in any mood to give up the fight against the nation's military Junta. "To stop the war is to surrender," he said. "The atrocities will go on because these people are not for democracy."
But does a man who has seen so many of his people die and his army dwindle really believe that his military campaign has been a success? With a weary smile he replies: "It's a draw. Nobody is winning and nobody will win."
In Rangoon, grinding poverty is accompanied by a lack of political freedom. Locals emerging from a cinema were too petrified to discuss their lives or give their names. However, two students described how they had spent 15 years in jail for speaking out in favour of democracy. One claimed he was forced to act like a dog, moving on all fours and "barking" when wardens called his name.
Severe restrictions are being placed on foreign aid agencies, including a proposed new requirement that they employ only people offered to them by the government.
Charles Petrie, the United Nations resident co-ordinator in Burma, said implementation of this would lead to an exodus of aid organisations because of their "inability to function".
As ever, it is the ordinary people who suffer most. At a refugee camp at Mae Sot, a Thai border town, a young Burmese man called Salwa, who lost a leg after stepping on a mine as he fled his home, described how his parents had urged him to run for his life when soldiers arrived.
"They are old and couldn't keep up with us," he said. "We wanted to stop and help them but there was no time. When I returned, I found their bodies."
• Mike Thomson's reports on life in Burma will be broadcast on Radio 4's Today programme at 7.30am from Monday to Friday this week.
This coming Sunday, March 12, is the "Global Day of Prayer for Burma". I encourage everyone to participate. This country has been oppressed for too long. The govt pays no attention to world opinion. A divine intervention is needed to set the land and its people free.
Check out the Christians Concerned for Burma website as they have info for the day of prayer. They also have a lot of other info, with pictures, about the sitation inside Burma.