Three items just in from the Karen Human Rights Group:
Villagers in Pa’an District, Karen State, have begun fleeing to Thailand to avoid violence and forced recruitment as porters in possible a joint SPDC/DKBA attack on a KNLA camp in Dta Greh Township, located next to a now populous IDP camp along the Moei River, bordering Thailand. This news bulletin describes the events of the past four days in which SPDC and DKBA forces have advanced towards the KNLA camp and begun what appears to be preparation for an attack. SPDC soldiers have begun patrolling and have set up an 81 mm mortar not far from the site and displaced villagers living in the area have become increasingly concerned about their safety.
Following the arrest of the American John Yettaw on May 5th 2009, Burma’s pro-democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was charged with violating the terms of her house arrest, moved to Insein Prison and put on trial. The international community has responded to these events with a flurry of attention on Burma not seen since Cyclone Nargis last year. Heads of State, activists and newspaper editors have renewed calls for her immediate release. At the same time, Burma Army operations in Karen State and other rural ethnic areas along with their associated human rights abuses remain ongoing and widespread. Yet once again the situation of abuse in rural Burma has been marginalised in favour of the more high profile political drama in the country’s urban settings. In calling, quite rightly, for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the international community must neither neglect the situation of abuse in rural Burma nor miss current opportunities to support those who face this abuse.
This report presents January 2009 interviews with two former SPDC convict porters. Both men are originally from Arakan State, Western Burma, and participated in the 2007 demonstrations against the rising cost of living. These demonstrations culminated in September 2007 with the large-scale monk-led protests and subsequent military crackdown. Both men were arrested by SPDC authorities for their activities, forced to serve as porters for the Burma Army in Karen State and eventually escaped captivity. Their testimonies cover issues such as SPDC-sponsored murder of convict porters, corruption within Burma’s judiciary and systematic SPDC abuses perpetrated against prisoners. The interviews also give insight into the possible fates of other Burmese citizens who have tried to voice dissent in Burma’s authoritarian environment, whether as part of the September 2007 protests or otherwise.