Human Rights Abuses Continue To Be Perpetrated Against Karen Communities, Report Finds

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Ethnic Karen people in southeastern Burma are still suffering from human rights abuses by the military and private companies, according to a new report released on Friday.

The Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG)’s 120-page report, Beyond the Horizon: Local Perspectives on Peace, Justice and Accountability, compiles interviews with nearly 100 villagers on Burma’s peace process and access to justice. It describes how Karen rights to natural resources and land have been disregarded by the authorities and private companies.

The report also found that abuses including extrajudicial killings, sexual and gender-based violence, forced labor and extortion still occur.

“So far, little has been done to ensure that victims of human rights violations and abuses have access to justice. Effective actions need to be taken against human rights abusers,” KHRG director Naw Htoo Htoo told NMG.

While KHRG describes the human rights situation as having initially improved in parts of Karen State following the Karen National Union’s (KNU) bilateral ceasefire with the government in 2012, excessive extraction of natural resources and land confiscation are now major threats to communities there.

The peace process is now deadlocked following the signing of the so-called Nationwide Ceasefire Agremeent in 2015 by the KNU and the government, and the consequences of past abuses continue to impact the daily lives of Karen people. KHRG noted that this is often combined with new forms of exploitation, compounding locals’ political and economic marginalization.

“It will be difficult to move the peace process in Southeast Burma forward without considering fair, impartial, effective, and independent justice mechanisms to hold perpetrators of past human rights abuses accountable,” Naw Htoo Htoo told NMG.

The Burma Army, meanwhile, has been increasing its troop presence across the region. Clashes between Karen forces and the Tatmadaw have subsequently been occurring, and land grabs by the military undermine local trust in the peace process.