Burma Army Attacking Christian Karen Villagers; Several Killed

Friday, November 7, 2008

By BosNewsLife Asia Service

RANGOON, BURMA (BosNewsLife) -- Hundreds of villagers of Burma's, predominantly Christian, Karen minority have been displaced and several killed in fresh fighting in the country's disputed Karen State area, a Christian rights group said Tuesday, November 4.

Britain-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) told BosNewsLife that some government backed "forcibly displaced" some 250 Karen villagers and killed at least three others along with a soldier of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), which says it fights for more rights for Karens.

CSW, which has been investigating the situation in Burma, also known as Myanmar, said the clashed happened in the Dooplaya District, in southern Karen State, and involved the government supported Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) and the Burma Army.
"This violence comes only one month before United NationsSecretary General, Ban Ki-Moon is due to visit the country for discussions over the political crisis." CSW said.

Free Burma Rangers, another group investigations reports of persecution, said government-backed forces such as the DKBA began targeting villagers at the beginning of October in a bid to control the population and gain access to coal, zinc mines, rubber and teak trees.

These attacks reportedly spilled over from Pa-an District into the Dooplaya District of Karen State at the end of last month. "Families have since been forced to flee their villages and set up temporary camps [across the border] in Thailand, 50 miles south (80 kilometers] of [the Thai area of Mae Sot.

CSW said it has learned from the Karen Human Rights Group that the DKBA initially warned villagers across the Pa-an District of their intention to attack. "These letters outlined plans to target the Karen National Liberation Army and [the related] Karen National Union. "DKBA forbade villagers from staying in farm field huts during night time and warned them not to contact or support the KNU or KNLA on threat of injury. "

CSW’s Advocacy Officer for Burma, Benedict Rogers said his group strongly condemns "these killings and the forcible displacement of so many innocent Karen villagers. " He said his group has welcomed the "landmark visit planned by [UN Secretary General] Ban Ki-Moon this December and call on the United Nations to set out specific benchmarks for progress, such as the release of political prisoners."

The CSW said is has urged the UN Security Council to impose a universal arms embargo on the military government in Burma "and to refer a case against Burma’s Army Generals to the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity." It is now time, CSW said, "to secure real and lasting change for the Karen people and all the peoples of Burma."

Rights groups have linked attacks against Karens to their Christian faith and fight for an own autonomous region. The Burmese authorities have described reports of human rights abuses as Western propaganda.

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