Saturday, January 22, 2011

Burma rights report says minority group killed, raped

The Burma junta has been commiting abuses in a remote state that need a crimes against humanity investigation, an international rights group said Wednesday.
An ethnic Chin refugee child (C) from Myanmar sits with his mother and sister at their living quarters in New Delhi. The Myanmar junta has been commiting abuses in a remote state that need a crimes against humanity investigation, an international rights group said Wednesday.
The Physicians for Human Rights group trained volunteers to survey hundreds of families in Chin state, many of whom said relatives had been killed, raped or forced into slave labor.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, the anti-apartheid campaigner, and former International Criminal Court prosecutor Richard Goldstone called the results of the survey "devastating" as they joined a call made in the report for an international inquiry into alleged crimes of humanity across Burma.
Physicians for Human Rights issued its report ahead of a review of Burma's record by the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva next week.
Demands for an international commission of inquiry have eased since Burma's election in November, which was dominated by pro-junta parties, and the later release of democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi.
But the US-based group, which shared the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize for its work in the international campaign to ban landmines, said the election had not "addressed the suffering" of the Burma people.
Its "Life Under The Junta" report said that Burma's "authoritarian system, with all the harm it has generated remains intact" and ethnic minorities like the Chin have faced "particularly brutal treatment under military rule."
The survey, carried out between October 2009 and November 2010, interviewed 621 families across Chin state, which is on the border with India. Physicians for Human Rights said it was the first detailed study of its kind.
Crimes committed in Chin state "include murder, rape, torture, group persecution and other inhumane acts," said the report.
The group said more than 90 percent of the families had reported that at least one member of the family had been forced into unpaid labor for the military or government.
Six families said a relative had been killed by soldiers, another 29 reported relatives had disappeared, 23 said a family member had been tortured, 17 that one person in the group had been raped or sexually violated by the military.
The report said that nearly a third of rape victims and nearly 20 percent of torture victims were aged under 15. Seventeen families said a child from the group had been forcibly conscripted into the Burma army. Some of the child soldiers were as young as 11, the report said.
"Forced labor is often performed at gunpoint under military oversight," said Physicians for Human Rights.
"Government soldiers reportedly beat and even shoot to death civilians while they labor under duress." The "military have also made civilian laborers serve as minesweepers and human shields to protect the soldiers while marching on dirt roads."
The Burma government has tried to turn remote Chin state into a major producer of tea and jatropha, also known as the physic nut.
To do this many families have been forced to stop growing their own food, the report said, and many have been displaced. There are an estimated 75,000 displaced Chin in India and 50,000 in Malaysia.
"Decades of neglect and widespread abuses have, moreover, devastated the Chin who have remained in (Burma) and rendered them highly food insecure and vulnerable to natural disaster." It said 114 villages in the southern township of Kanpalet face food shortages because of rat infestation.