May 29, 2008

The Burma Campaign UK today called for international action to protect ethnic Karen villagers in Eastern Burma who are still being attacked by the Burmese Army despite the devastating cyclone that has struck the country.

On May 10th, just a week after Cyclone Nargis struck, the Burmese Army attacked Mu Li Khi village burning 11 houses and looting food and supplies. Villagers escaped with their lives, but will struggle to feed their families as their rice and livestock was stolen.

Information about the attack was smuggled out of Burma by the Committee for Internally Displaced Karen People, a grassroots organisation that provides aid to Karen people who have been driven from their homes by the Burmese army.

The attack also took place on the day the regime held a referendum on a new constitution that enshrines military rule, but which the generals claim is part of a roadmap to democracy.

“This shows the true nature of the regime,” said Zoya Phan, International Coordinator of Burma Campaign UK. “They continue their campaign of ethnic cleansing while at the same time blocking aid to those in the delta. For years they have been blocking aid into eastern Burma, but Ban Ki-Moon and governments have been silent about this. If aid restrictions had been challenged before, perhaps we would not have the problems we do now about getting aid into the delta.”

Burma’s brutal military dictatorship is engaged in ethnic cleansing in Karen, Karenni and Shan state in Eastern Burma. More than 3,000 villages have been destroyed in the past 12 years, and half a million people are internally displaced. The United Nations has accused the regime of breaking the Geneva Convention by deliberately targeting civilians in Eastern Burma. Levels of poverty and disease in conflict zones are as high as in the worst conflict hit African countries. The regime uses slave labour, rape as a weapon of war, and tortures and mutilates civilians.  The regime also refuses to let aid agencies and the UN into these areas.

“The denial of aid is as effective at killing my people as a bullet,” said Zoya Phan.

“The situation in Eastern Burma is one of the worst human rights and humanitarian crises in the world, yet the world has done little to challenge the regime or get aid to my people. The UN can’t have double standards, saying aid must reach the delta but accepting aid being blocked in Karen State. The principle of aid being delivered on the basis of need must be adhered to. The regime’s restrictions on aid are unacceptable, wherever they are applied.”

For more information contact Zoya Phan on 020 7324 4710.


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