500 Shan houses burned in scorched earth campaign

Aug 13, 2009 (DVB), The Burmese junta's latest scorched earth campaign in Shan state has in the last three weeks destroyed 500 homes and uprooted around 10,000 civilians, according to a data released today.

Burma's eastern Shan state has long been a site of conflict between the Burmese army and armed opposition groups, driven in part by its abundance of opium poppy plantations.

Data compiled by Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF), the Shan Women's Action Network (SWAN) and other Shan community-based organizations show that since 27 July, around 40 villages have been relocated by the army.

According to the groups, it is the single largest forced relocation in Shan state since a campaign from 1996 to 1998 saw the uprooting of 300,000 villagers, many of whom fled to Thailand.

Much of the campaign has focused on Laikha township, where over 100 villagers, including women, have been arrested and tortured, and three have died. Many of these were displaced by the previous campaign.

"One young woman was shot while trying to retrieve her possessions from her burning house, and her body thrown into a pit latrine," said a joint press release.

"Another woman was gang-raped in front of her husband by an officer and three of his troops."

The groups have called on the UN Security Council to set up a Commission of Enquiry to investigate what they believe to be crimes against humanity.

They have also demanded that members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) "seriously review their engagement with this pariah nation".

"The regime brazenly committed these crimes even as the whole world was watching them during the trial of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi," said Charm Tong of SWAN. "They are thumbing their noses at the international community."

Reporting by Francis Wade

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