By Worthy News Asia Service
RANGOON, BURMA (Worthy News)-- Over 70 houses, a mobile health clinic and two schools in eastern Burma have been burnt down by army patrols stepping up an offensive against predominantly Christian Karen villagers, rights activists said Thursday, February 11.
The Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People said in published remarks that
government backed troops set fire to 46 houses in Toe Hta area and 28 houses in Ka Di Mu Der area of Ler Doh township, Nyaunglebin District.
There were no immediate reports of casualties, but at least three Karen villagers are known to have died in previous attacks.
A vital mobile health clinic, a middle school, and a nursery school in K’Dee Mu Der village and
Tee Mu TaVillage were reportedly also destroyed by soldiers Monday, February 8.
Other schools have been forced to close.
Over 2,000 people have been displaced and are still in hiding following the attacks that began in January, according to Free Burma Rangers (FBR), a relief organization working in the conflict zones of eastern Burma.
“These latest attacks serve as clear evidence of a brutal plan of ethnic cleansing against the
minorities, instigated by Burma’s military regime," said Benedict Rogers, East Asia Team Leader of advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
"Karen villagers have been subjected to severe human rights violations for far too long. Governments need to respond to these crimes against humanity by working to establish a United Nations commission of inquiry and an immediate and universal arms embargo," he added.
Karen villagers, many of whom are Christians, have been targeted after demanding more rights and autonomy in their region, Worthy News and its partner agency BosNewsLife learned from previous investigations.
Christianity is also seen as a threat to the power base of the military government, rights groups say.
The United Nations said Thursday, February 11, that its top envoy on human rights in Burma will visit the country Monday, February 15, to talk with Burma's leaders and parties about planned elections, the country's first in 20 years.
Tomas Ojea Quintana said in a statement he also hopes to meet detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest in Rangoon. She has been under some sort of detention for 14 of the last 20 years.
Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won Burma's last parliamentary elections in 1990, but the country's military rulers never recognized the results.
She is seen as a unifying force and is expected to reach out to etnic communities, including Christian Karen villagers, rights activists say. (With reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos).