US Group Slams Burma’s Regime for Creating “Darfur of the East” (click to view PDF)

For Immediate Release
December 6th, 2004
Contact: Jeremy Woodrum at (202) 246-7924 or Aung Din at (301) 602 0077

NEW ATTACKS AS US STATE DEPARTMENT SUGGESTS BOYCOTT OF REGIONAL SUMMIT

(Washington, DC) The US Campaign for Burma today strongly criticized Burma’s military regime for “terrorizing” ethnic people after the regime’s troops drove over 7,500 people into the jungle while burning down villages and destroying critically needed rice supplies.

“These shameful scorched earth attacks and terrorizing of innocent civilians must stop,” said Stephen Dun, a board member of US Campaign for Burma, a leading US-based activist organization. “Under this brutal military regime, Burma is in danger of becoming the ‘Darfur of the east’”.

Over the past decade, Burma’s military regime has pressed hundreds of thousands of civilians from their homes into the jungle where they are hunted down and killed like animals or eke out a basic subsistence from foraging. It is estimated that 526,000 of these villagers are currently struggling for survival in the jungle away from their homes and outside of the reach of international aid agencies. Approximately 157,000 are newly displaced–since late 2002.

The attacks are aimed at bringing eastern Burma, which has historically been under the control of Burma’s ethnic nationalities including the Karen and Karenni, under total authoritarian control by the ruling military regime. In addition to political control, the regime seeks the vast quantities of natural resources, including timber and gems, available in the area.

The recent attacks took place in two separate locations. First, approximately 4,781 villagers have fled the regime’s troops in the Naunglybin district since November 14th, which is located in western Karen State in eastern Burma. Five Burma Army battalions are involved in the operation, which is ongoing as of this writing. At the same time, over 3,000 Karen villagers from Toungoo District in Northern Karen State are fleeing attack by the regime’s troops. 

The situation for internally displaced people in eastern Burma is a serious public health emergency. According to recent surveys by well-respected nongovernmental organizations operating in neighboring countries, child mortality and malnutrition rates in the area are comparable to those recorded amongst internally displaced populations in the Horn of Africa.

Recently, leading members of the US Congress have taken an increased interest in the situation. Eight Congressional staff members have traveled to the region during the past year and have begun to raise the issue publicly.

The latest attacks follow a pattern of slash and burn tactics utilized by the regime. Nearly 20,000 baskets of rice were burned and landmines were laid in the empty villages so that it is nearly impossible for the villagers to return home.

The attacks come just weeks after both chambers of the US Congress, Australian Senate, and Denmark Parliament passed resolutions and motions calling for the United Nations Security Council to address the growing crisis in Burma. Last week United States President George W. Bush, along with leaders in Italy, Germany, New Zealand, and elsewhere also publicly criticized a decision by Burma’s military regime to pro-long the detention of the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient and the country’s leading pro-democracy activist, Aung San Suu Kyi. The US State Department has suggested the United States may boycott a major 2006 summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations if Burma maintains its present course.

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