66,000 people displaced by Myanmar army abuses
* TBBC report accuses military of land confiscation, forced labour
* Australia extends sanctions on Myanmar’s military rulers
BANGKOK: Up to 66,000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes in eastern Myanmar in the past year because of systematic abuses by the country’s ruling military, an aid group said on Wednesday.
The Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), which provides aid to hundreds of thousands of refugees who flee Myanmar, formally known as Burma, said in a new report that the junta’s actions could constitute crimes against humanity.
“The extent of persecution and suffering in the border areas has been largely unseen and under-reported for decades,” said Jack Dunford, TBBC’s executive director. “Yet the same brutal army that crushed protests on city streets last September marauds with impunity in rural Burma, bringing fear and disrupting the lives of villagers on a day to day basis.”
TBBC report: The TBBC report accuses the military of systematically forcing villagers from their homes in Myanmar’s eastern Karen and Shan states. Forced labour, land confiscation, and restricting people’s access to farmland and markets also has a devastating economic impact, it added. The group said that their findings appeared to support London-based Amnesty International’s report that the violations in eastern Myanmar “meet the legal threshold to constitute crimes against humanity.” Amnesty said in a June report that Myanmar was committing crimes against humanity by targeting civilians during its military offensive against ethnic rebel armies who have been battling the junta’s rule for decades.
Civilians living in the areas affected have been subjected to abuses including torture, forced labour, killings, arbitrary arrest and the destruction of homes, villages, farmland and food stocks, Amnesty said. The TBBC estimated that there are more than half a million people currently internally displaced within eastern Myanmar.
“Approximately 66,000 people were forced to leave their homes due to the effects of armed conflict and human rights abuses during the past year alone,” the group said, referring to the time period between July 2007 and June 2008. There are also about 120,000 refugees living in camps along Thailand’s border with Myanmar. Most are refugees from Myanmar’s many ethnic minorities, the majority from the Karen group.
Australian sanctions: Meanwhile Australia extended financial sanctions against another 45 of Myanmar’s military leaders on Wednesday as a protest against the junta’s lack of progress toward democracy. Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said the new list of 463 individuals singled out for sanctions included members of the ruling State Peace and Development Council, government ministers and military officers as well as the regime’s business associates and relatives. “Australia will continue to press Burma’s regime for meaningful political progress toward democracy,” he added. Smith said the detention of 2,000 political prisoners, including pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, is “a major impediment to political progress.” agencies