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Afraid to Go Home: Recent Violent Conflict and Human Rights Abuses in Karen State

By Karen Rivers Watch  •  November 7, 2014

 Afraid to Go HomeIntroduction

The following report was prepared by Karen Rivers Watch (KRW), a coalition of six Karen organizations focused on the environment, women, youth, human rights and development issues. More information about KRW is provided on page 14.

This report is based on field interviews with local villagers and leaders of Karen armed groups, as well as media coverage of the recent conflict. It describes events that led to recent armed conflict between the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) and the combined force of the Burmese Army (BA) and Border Guard Force (BGF) in Karen State. Next, the report gives a detailed account of clashes that occurred along the Salween River in Hpa-an and Hpapun (Mutraw) districts. It also describes the current situation faced by more than 2,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), many of whom are in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. It relates accounts of forced labor, looting of homes, confiscation of property, and increased militarization. Finally, it discusses how the recent fighting appears to be part of a calculated military strategy by the BA/BGF to control territory in Karen State, possibly motivated by plans to construct the Hatgyi Dam on the Salween River.

KRW’s primary goal in releasing this report is to raise awareness about the current situation in Karen State. Restricted access to the conflict areas has made reporting on the situation difficult. Confusing and conflicting reports by the media are common, and the Burmese Army even detained and killed a journalist who was reporting on the conflict.1 Many of the IDPs interviewed for this report refused to answer questions, out of fear for their safety and the safety of their families. Currently, there is a crucial need for up-to-date and accurate information, and to bring the human rights violations and need for humanitarian aid to the attention of the international community.

We also aim to highlight the human cost of the recent fighting in Karen State, and to situate recent events in the context of the broader, decades-long conflict in the region.

In order to ensure the protection of civilians in Karen State, KRW makes the following recommendations:

• The Burmese government should halt military offensives in Karen State.
• The Burmese government should allow access for the delivery of humanitarian aid to IDPs who have fled their homes as a result of the conflict.
• The Thai government should not force refugees back across the border during times of conflict.
• The Burmese Government and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) should clarify the status of the Hatgyi Dam and fully disclose project information to the public.

Download the full report here.

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This post is in: Business and Human Rights, Environmental and Economic Justice, Spotlight

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