Army abuse still rife in Karen state

Sept 8, 2009 (DVB), Abuse of civilians by Burmese troops and a proxy militia that forced 5000 into Thailand in June continue to occur in Karen state, according to a local human rights group.

Although fighting has calmed between Burmese troops, backed by the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA), and the opposition Karen National Union (KNU), stability in the area remains fragile.

A report released today by the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) says that government and DKBA troops "continue to subject villagers to exploitative abuse and attempt to consolidate control of territory".

"DKBA and [government] soldiers have been demanding that villagers work as porters, carrying supplies including rations and ammunition, as well as to walk in front of military columns where they serve as human minesweepers," the report said.

The DKBA, who split from the KNU in 1994, are reportedly looking to wrestle control of Karen state from the KNU in order to create a trading zone.

Both DKBA and Burmese army units now occupy former KNU positions, many of which have been taken in recent months. During the June offensive, the KNU lost its strategically important Battalion 7 headquarters.

One of the focal points of the fighting was the Ler Per Har camp for internally displaced people. Many of the refugees who arrived in Thailand fled from the camp.

"Villagers continue to be forcibly recruited by the DKBA, which has been undertaking a consistent push for new recruits since August 2008," said the report.

Reports have also emerged of the execution of a Karen village headman on 27 August, following which DKBA troops threatened his family.

"I think the DKBA doesn’t have rules for their soldiers," the report quoted a male villager as saying.

"They think the villagers are only animals. They kill people like killing animals. They killed this man for no reason and without asking any questions."

The conflict between the KNU and Burmese government has stretched over 60 years, and is thought to be one of the world's longest running.

Reporting by Francis Wade

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