Saturday, September 29, 2007

“Shoot on sight” orders part of Burma’s ethnic cleansing campaign

While the world’s attention is on the protests in Burma’s cities against military rule a government campaign to wipe out the country’s ethnic minorities has been underway in the countryside in the northern and eastern provinces of Myanmar. Satellite images assembled by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) confirm reports by human rights activists that entire villages have been destroyed within the past few years. According to Witness, a human rights organization,
… in eastern Burma, a 45-year catastrophe has reached one of its worst moments, as the country's military junta escalates its attacks against the area's ethnic minorities. The government's efforts to assert control over ethnic border areas have emptied over 3,000 villages in a decade, an average of almost one village each day over the past ten years. The forces of Burma's military junta, the State Peace & Development Council (SPDC), are mortaring villages, looting and burning homes to the ground, and destroying crops in an effort to obliterate the livelihoods of rural communities. Burmese soldiers are ordered to shoot civilians on sight.

Over 500,000 displaced people live in constant insecurity in eastern Burma, and over 30,000 more have been displaced because of this most recent offensive. Those who are captured by the Burmese army face forced labor, conscription, torture, rape and even execution. The rest are unable to return to their homes for fear of stepping on landmines laid after their escape. Instead, the displaced live in makeshift camps in the jungle, enduring some of the worst health conditions in any world crisis today.
The Karen people, an ethnic group with ancestral ties to Tibet, have been particularly targeted by the Burmese military. Thousands of Karen have been forced to flee their homes to refugee camps in Thailand or hide in the jungle as seen in this video from the Washington Post and this video below.

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