Contact: Roland Watson, roland@dictatorwatch.org


February 18, 2004

This is an update on the internally displaced person (IDP) crisis now in progress in Eastern Burma. Please see www.dictatorwatch.org/phshows/ethniccleansing2.html for the Free Burma Rangers relief team mission report (with photography and map) covering the period January 2-31.

FBR relief teams have treated 3,991 IDPs for medical problems and 124 for dental problems. In addition, they are documenting the ongoing Burma Army campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Karen and Karenni peoples, and other specific war crimes including:

- Destruction of villages
- Theft and destruction of villager belongings and crops (the intentional causing of starvation)
- Forced relocation
- Forced portering
- Laying of new land mines
- Torture of villagers
- Murder

Breaking News Update: The number of known IDPs is now 5,700. In addition to the 3,500 displaced persons in Muthraw District, Karen State, which are described in the mission report, the FBR relief teams have determined that there are an additional 2,200 IDPs in Toungoo District (the northernmost district in Karen State). However, the number of Karenni IDPs who fled north from Southern Karenni State (which borders Toungoo District and which is the epicenter of the ethnic cleansing) is still unknown, so the total resulting from the latest Burma Army atrocity is likely much larger. Also, although Burma Army attacks in Muthraw District have for the time being ceased, such attacks are now intensifying in both Toungoo District and Southern Karenni State, as the Army has engaged eight more battalions.

In other words, this is no longer simply a crisis; it is a disaster. Further, it is a disaster to which there has been no international or United Nations condemnation, much less a concerted, on the ground, humanitarian intervention.

Indeed, it is extremely telling that while all of this has been taking place, the international community has actually been renewing its contacts with Burma’s junta, the SPDC. Many diplomats and journalists have even gone so far as to call recent developments in the country: “progress.” Obviously, they are excluding from their list of developments this massive and systematic commission of crimes against humanity. Perhaps if each such diplomat and journalist had IDP relatives who had seen their homes burned down and lives destroyed, or a family member being tortured in one of Burma’s prisons, they would realize just how ludicrous their position is. All such supporters of SPDC propaganda are living in a fantasy world. Just because you want something to work, doesn’t mean that it will. Than Shwe’s strategy is to let Khin Nyunt and Win Aung conduct an international charm offensive, while Maung Aye’s Burma Army continues its brutal repression. Nothing has changed. The SPDC’s reign of terror proceeds unabated. Further, they will never willingly leave, or even share power. The relaxation of pressure by the international community, starting with by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra of Thailand, is accomplishing the exact opposite of its stated objective: a transition to democracy. Instead, the SPDC is using this period to secure new funds and arms, and to entrench its military positions around the country such that, at least concerning an internal uprising, it is invincible.

With no internal uprising, and with the countries of the world supporting Burma’s ruling mass-murderers (both tacitly and economically), the nation is doomed.

How will the international community respond to this disaster? Will there even be a response? After the genocide in Rwanda and Burundi, didn’t the leaders of the world say: Never Again!? At least peacekeepers have been sent to the conflict in the Eastern Congo. Why not Burma? Does Thaksin have that much influence? Rather than demand access to eastern Burma through Thailand’s border, other nations, and the United Nations, are deferring to him, and the body count continues to rise.

The IDPs remain in grave danger: under fire, starving and freezing. How long must they wait before the world comes to their aid?