Tue 28 Aug 2012
Filed under: Inside Burma,Military,News
The rights of ethnic Karen people are still being abused in Myanmar, despite a ceasefire with the state and a pledge of political reform, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) claimed in a report released on Tuesday.
The report, “Bitter Wounds and Lost Dreams: Human Rights Under Assault in Karen State” was made public at a function held at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand, in Bangkok.
PHR Burma Project director Bill Davis said the report was the result of a survey of 665 households in 88 villages in January 2012, shortly before the temporary ceasefire between the Karen National Union and the Myanmar government.
The survey covered human rights abuses, health indicators, food availability and access to health care between January 2011 and 2012. Last year the Massachusetts-based PHR published a similar report on Chin State.
“Areas under government control have more human rights violations than in contested areas,” Mr Davis said.
Despite many positive changes underway in Yangon, the international community must not forget about the ethnic minority groups in the country’s rural and border areas, the project leader said.
“Since human rights abuses will not end with a ceasefire agreement, continued documentation as well as the establishment of accountability for violators are necessary for reconciliation,” the report says.
The report recommends that the Myanmar government restructure the country’s National Human Rights Commission to enable it to conduct impartial investigations of human rights violations.
It advises the KNU that any ceasefire with the government should ensure that protection for civilians from human rights abuses is an integral part of ceasefire negotiations.
Turning to the international business community, the PHR says in its report that the survey showed human rights abuses around a development project were eight times higher than elsewhere. The PHR was concerned that US lifting of sanctions would bring in more development projects in the coming years.
“International business should conduct thorough and impartial impact evaluations of investment projects on human rights, particularly land rights, and environmental conditions and consult with civil society groups including ethnic members before implementing the projects,” the report says.
The United States government should revise current policy on investment on Myanmar, the PHR said, to keep oil and gas projects out of the reach of US business as they would exacerbate human rights abuses.
The report says Asean engagement with Myanmar should be checked to ensure human rights protection.
The PHR has also called on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to broaden its activities and reach beyond Yangon into ethnic minority communities to ensure the victims of forced labour can report violations.
Eh Kalu Shwe Oo, deputy head of the Karen State Department of Health and Welfare, said there were hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Karen people while his organisation could only reach a small percentage of the whole population.
Malaria is the biggest cause of death, and with refugees across the border set to return home sooner or later the need for more skilled health workers is urgent, said Mr Shwe Oo.
Khu Khu Ju, of the Karen Human Rights Group, said the pattern of abuse included arbitrary arrest, land contamination, denial of humanitarian assistance, torture and forced labour. Abuses were committed not only by the authorities but were also related to commercial projects such as logging and road construction. The big one is the deepsea port development in Dawei, she said.