International ramifications of Myanmar’s persecution of the Karen minority

Updated On: May 09, 2006

Since the reports some weeks back that the Myanmarese junta has been persecuting the Karen ethnic group by razing villages and forcing dislocation because of the moving of capital to PyinmanaThailand's acting Prime Minister Chidchai Vanasatidya has expressed concern that the Myanmarese army’s offensive against the Karen National Union is affecting Thailand.

The prolonged battles near Thai-Myanmar border have worsened the refugee situation in Thailand and Thai territorial integrity was violated occasionally due to fighting spillovers.

As of last week, more than 1,000 Karen people have entered the northern Thai province of Mae Hong Son after reports of fighting and compulsory labour inMyanmar. The Thai News agency reported that “they sought refuge at a border camp in Mae Hong Son's Sop Moei district and now staying at Mae La Luang temporary shelter”.

All these attacks have led to renewed calls for action. At the beginning of May, Human Rights Watch announced that it was time that the UN Security Council (UNSC) and ASEAN strongly condemn Myanmar’s persecution of the Karen population, which has seen more than 10,000 people forced out of their homes. The Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO) has also appealed to the UNSC to act quickly to stop the governmental attacks on civilians and boost human security. ARNO also detailed the human rights violations carried out by the junta, saying, “The Burma Army is hunting down the escaping villagers in the jungles, shooting them indiscriminately while pushing them into forced relocation camps, turning their villages into ‘free-fire’ zones, kidnapping people for forced labour, burning and stealing food stocks, raping, torturing, and laying landmines….”

In response to the appeal for action, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has waived a law to make a group of Myanmar refugees eligible for resettlement into the United States. This means that the 9,300 Karen refugees who are KNU supporters and are housed in Tham Hin camp in Thailand along the Myanmar border will no longer be classified “terrorism supporters”. This waiver is not a guarantee that US resettlement is granted, but a procedure by which “the Department of Homeland Security [can] consider them as potentially eligible”, the Agence-France Presse reported.

Arakan Rohingya's appeal to UN Security Council to safeguard the Burmese civilians (Asian Tribune, 8 May 2006)
Burma fighting destabilising: Chidchai (Bangkok Post, 7 May 2006)
 fighting affects Thailand: Acting Thai Prime Minister (Thai News Agency, 7 May 2006
Rice waives law to allow Myanmar refugees into US (Agence-France Presse, 7 May 2006)
Asean, UN Must Condemn Myanmar Over Karen Attacks, Group Says (Bloomberg News, 3 May 2006)