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Supporting civilians that face ongoing military attacks

By Karen Human Rights Group  •  September 2, 2010

The Burma Army continues to launch deliberate military attacks that target civilians and undermine humanitarian conditions in upland areas of Karen State, according to the Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG), which today released the report Self-protection under strain: Targeting of civilians and local responses in northern Karen State. Drawing on over 212 interviews and 85 field documents submitted by KHRG field researchers since January 2009, the report makes clear that civilians contending with attacks need increased humanitarian support.  This support must be designed to strengthen local communities existing capacities for protection of human rights.

Self-protection under strain focuses on one particularly affected area of northern Karen State, where a displaced population of more than 27,000 villagers continue to face attacks.  “The situation remains urgent,” said Saw Poe Shan K. Phan, KHRG’s Field Director.  “In just the weeks since we printed this report, more than 1,000 people were displaced when the Burma Army shelled, attacked and then burned another village in the report’s research area. Soldiers destroyed homes, a school and a church – and then they left landmines in the village, making it dangerous for the villagers to return or rebuild.”

Even in the face of these attacks, however, tens of thousands of villagers continue to survive – through coordinated, creative and brave community attempts to protect their human rights. Burma Army practices targeting civilians and their livelihoods, however, have gravely undermined food security and health for communities in upland areas.  This has created new protection concerns and seriously challenged established local self-protection strategies, prompting some individuals and communities to seek alternative means of addressing their needs.

Local capacities for, and limits to, self-protection, and the concerns and priorities that inform villagers’ choices of protection strategies, indicate potential entry points for practical attempts to improve human rights conditions across conflict areas in eastern Burma.  “Anyone wishing to help villagers in these areas should start by understanding the local dynamics of abuse and community responses,” said Naw Eh Paw Htoo, KHRG spokesperson for the report.  “Only such a detailed understanding can enable programmes and policies that broaden villagers’ range of feasible options for protecting their human rights, today.”

The report is available online here and hard copies can be obtained by emailing khrg@khrg.org. Print-quality photos for inclusion in news articles and video footage of villagers in Karen State are also available on request.

About KHRG

The Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) was founded in 1992 and documents the situation of villagers and townspeople in rural Burma through their direct testimonies, supported by photographic and other evidence.  KHRG operates independently and is not affiliated with any political or other organisation.  Examples of our work can be seen online at www.khrg.org.


For interviews in Karen, English or Burmese or more details of the report, please contact KHRG via e-mail at khrg@khrg.org or by phone at +66 (0) 85-2685519.

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