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Burma Army Attacks Christian Villages, 1,200 Displaced

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Thursday, 05 January 2006
By BosNewsLife News Center

RANGOON, BURMA (BosNewsLife)-- Burmese government forces attacked villages of the Karen and Karenni people, displacing 1,200 villagers, as part of a "slow genocide" against these predominantly Christian ethnic groups, a religious rights group said late Thursday, January 5.

"Troops from Burma Army battalions 421, 426, 428, and 424 carried out their attacks against villagers in Southern Karenni State on December 23," said Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which has investigated the situation in Burma, also known as Myanmar.

CSW claimed soldiers burned down 26 houses in Gee Gaw Ber village, forcing all 610 residents of the village into hiding. A further 341 people from the nearby village of Toe Ka Htoo allegedly fled in fear of further Burma Army attacks while 255 people from Pah Poe (Papo) village, which was attacked on December 17, are also in hiding.

"Those newly displaced are now in hiding without shelter and the temperatures in the area are very low. Those who have fled are hiding at heights between 3,500-6,500 feet (1,066-1,981 meters) and the freezing level is between 4,000-5,000 feet, (1,219-1,524 meters)," the group stressed.

"UNDER CONSTANT ATTACK"

CSW said the area of what is known as the Southern Karenni State have been "under constant attack since December 2002 when over 2,000 Karenni and 3,000 Karen were attacked by ten battalions of the Burma Army." Karens from villages near the Karenni border were reportedly also attacked by the Burmese troops.

A BosNewsLife team investigating the situation in 2005 also established that several villages near the border with Thailand had been shelled, despite promises of a ceasefire.

Thue Mwe Nee is one of several settlements being shelled by government forces since last year, BosNewsLife learned. In this region, near Thailand, possibly thousands of Karens were killed, tortured and raped in recent years. Bodies of at least hundreds of children have been seen lying in rivers, Karen and church sources say.

KAREN LIBERATION ARMY

The Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), an outgunned group of mainly 'born-again' Christians have been fighting the Burmese forces to defend their villages and dreams of an autonomous Karen state.

"The stated purpose of the Burma Army in the area is to clear all villagers out of the Karenni-Karen border areas and force them into relocation areas under Burma Army control," claimed CSW. Burma’s governing State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) consists of a group of generals who have governed the Asian nation by decree without a constitution or legislature since 1988, when armed forces suppressed massive pro-democracy demonstrations.

Buddhist Karen people established their own small army, known as the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA) with the active support of the military government and closely cooperates with the SPDC troops.

1.5 MILLION DISPLACED

Human rights watchers say there are up to 1,5 million people internally displaced because of the ongoing fighting. "The military regime continues to wage a 'slow genocide' against the ethnic groups," CSW said.

It urged the United Nations Security Council to take action "on behalf of the people of Burma", but also said it has been "encouraged" by a recent UN briefing the Security Council received on the "deteriorating situation" in the country.

UN Under Secretary General for Political Affairs, Ibrahim Gambarie, reportedly gave a 25-minute briefing on December 16, which focused on reports of human rights abuses, the detention of political prisoners, including opposition leader and Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and Burma's refusal to grant access to a UN special envoy.

LOSING LIVES

"The ongoing attacks against villagers and the internally displaced people in Karenni state highlight the urgent necessity of UN Security Council intervention," CSW Advocacy Director Alexa Papadouris told BosNewsLife in a statement.

"While the world stands by, thousands of people every year are losing their lives in Burma and hundreds of thousands are being forcibly displaced as part of a deliberate strategy to destroy their ethnic group," Papadouris said.

Burma's government has strongly denied allegations of human rights abuses. It has also accused the United States of leading a campaign against the nation as part of its alleged efforts to control Asia. Christian Freedom International (CFI), another human rights groups, has said it wants to send Bibles to Burma to ease tensions and help perseuted believers there. (With BosNewsLife Chief International Correspondent Stefan J. Bos and reports from Burma. On the web: http//:www.christianfreedom.org).

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