Human rights violations by the Burmese army in Karen State continue even as the Karen National Union (KNU) and government negotiators prepare to meet next week for their third round of peace talks, according to a new report issued on Tuesday.
One-third of the families in the region reported experiencing abuses – such as evictions, forced labor, restricted movement and sometimes physical attacks, including rape and torture, according to a Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) report.
PHR warned that a cease-fire agreement, while positive, would not necessarily lead to an end of abuses against civilians. It called on the government to hold human rights violators accountable and take steps to implement further political and judicial reforms.
Bill Davis, the PHR Burma director, said that the US should take greater precautions to ensure that new US investment does not support those linked to rights abuses.
“We've heard a lot of American government sources saying 'Well our companies are different than the companies that have been working [in Burma], different from Chinese companies. Our companies care about human rights,’” he said. “And maybe they do. But a major problem is that in Karen State and in a lot of other ethnic areas in Burma, foreign companies often partner with the Burmese military to implement projects.”
Peace with ethnic groups is a top priority for western governments, but clashes continue with armed ethnic groups including the Karen, Kachin, Shan and others, despite a series of cease-fire deals earlier this year.
In January, the government signed a preliminary cease-fire with the Karen National Union, one of the country's largest rebel groups.
Displaced villagers fleeing from the fighting and the movements of government troops have forced up to 70,000 ethnic villagers to flee their homes and farms. Complicating the humanitarian problem is the government’s denial of open access to aid groups.
The third round of peace negotiations between the KNU and the Burmese government will be held on Sept. 3-4 in Hpan-an in Karen State.
Negotiations will focus on a guarantee of safety for civilians and, the relocation of government troops and a Code of Conduct, which was drafted by the KNU and submitted to the government.