By Worthy News Asia Service with reporting by Worthy News' Stefan J. Bos
RANGOON, BURMA (Worthy News)-- Over 2,000 ethnic Karen villagers were seeking shelter Tuesday, January 26, as they were forced to flee their homes in the past week following deadly attacks by the Burmese army, investigators said.
In a statement the Free Burma Rangers (FBR), a relief organization working in the conflict zones of eastern Burma, said at least three villagers "were shot and killed" and many more injured.
There are believed to be many Christians among the refugees. FBR said recent attacks began when two villagers were shot in Keh Der village on January 17 in Ler Doh Township.
"Ten houses were burned down, two villagers were shot and killed," FBR added. One of the victims was identified as Saw Mya Kaw Htoo, a 48-year-old married father with six children. The other victim of the village was Saw Ey Moo "who was killed on January 19 by the same patrolling unit," of the Burmese army, FBR said.
Elsewhere in the region troops shot three villagers from Kaw Htoo Toe while they were harvesting bamboo killing at least one of them, the Rangers said. "A FBR team responding to the attacks, found the decapitated body of Saw Nay Wa."
Additionally, Burmese soldiers reportedly also captured two women and one man in the village of Hti Aw Top in Mon Township. "The villagers were on their way to selling their goods when they were captured and tied up" on January 18, FBR said. The whereabouts of the villagers, identified as Saw Poe Lae, Naw Gu Htoo and Naw Day Poe were not immediately known.
"CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY"
The latest attacks are "another example of the military regime’s war crimes and crimes against humanity, " said Mervyn Thomas, the Chief Executive of advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).
Ahead of the "regime’s sham elections planned in Burma this year", it was now "more vital than ever to highlight the plight of the Burmese people, especially the oppressed ethnic nationalities," Thomas added.
CSW has urged the international community to impose an immediate universal arms embargo, and the United Nations to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate Burma’s alleged crimes against humanity "without further delay".
The military government of Burma, also known as Myanmar, has denied wrongdoing and described reports to the contrary as "propaganda". On Monday, January 25, it also promised to release Burma's opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, when her house arrest ends in November.
Christian Karens, who say they fight for more autonomy and rights, view her as a leader they could work with, BosNewsLife learned from a previous investigation.
Yet, observers note that Aung San Suu Kyi's release will probably be too late for this year's parliamentary elections - the first in two decades - which is expected to be held the month before.
The 64-year-old Nobel Peace Prize winner, who has been detained for 15 of the past 21 years, was sentenced last year to 18 months of house arrest for harboring an American man who swam uninvited to her lakeside home.