Rights abuses ‘constant threat’ for Myanmar’s KarenAgence France-Presse . Bangkok
Human rights violations remain a serious problem in Myanmar’s eastern Karen state despite a ceasefire agreed between ethnic minority rebels and the reformist government, a report said Tuesday.
Nearly one-third of 665 households surveyed in the region between January 2011 and January 2012 reported human rights violations, mostly forced labour such as being military porters, Physicians for Human Rights said.
The military was the main perpetrator of forced labour violations, but armed rebel groups also committed abuses, it added.
About 1.3 per cent of families reported kidnapping, torture or sexual assault, according to the group, whose aim is to use medicine and science to investigate and expose rights violations.
Economic projects are linked with increased human rights violations, whose prevalence in areas where there is no active armed conflict suggests ceasefire agreements will not necessarily lead to an end of abuses, it said.
People who live near a mine, pipeline, hydroelectric dam or other economic project backed by the government are eight times more likely to have been forced to work for the army than those living elsewhere, the survey found.
‘Human rights violations do occur in the absence of conflict and also around development projects,’ said the organisation’s Myanmar project director Bill Davis.
Despite Myanmar’s political reforms, rights violations by the military remain a ‘constant threat’ for many families in Karen State, he said.
Karen rebels have battled the government since 1949 in the eastern jungle near the Thai border, but they signed a peace pact in January in a move that raised hopes of a permanent end to one of the world’s oldest civil conflicts.
Although there were no major offensives by the military in Karen last year, there was a heavy presence of troops who restricted the movements of civilians and forced them to provide food and labour, the report said.
‘The ceasefire will not automatically create lasting peace, and even peace does not guarantee improved human right conditions,’ said Khu Khu Ju of the Karen Human Rights Group, which helped produce the report.
Myanmar takes 2,000 exiles off blacklist
Myanmar has removed about 2,000 exiles from an immigration blacklist drawn up by the former junta to allow them to return home as part of political reforms, the authorities said Tuesday.
‘The people taken off the blacklist are civil servants who fled Myanmar a long time ago,’ an information ministry official said.
‘More than 6,000 former civil servants from government ministries were blacklisted. Some 2,000 were taken off today,’ he said. ‘They can come back to the country freely. The authorities will decide later whether to remove the others.’
Several million people fled the country to escape the corrupted economy and political repression under army rule which ended last year, leaving a shortage of professionals to help manage economic and political change.
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