Military abuse, exploitation and conflict have marked villagers’ lives in Southeast Burma since the country’s independence in 1948. Many villagers have suffered through repeated waves of intense violence and oppression as the Burma military attempted to bring the different ethnic areas under its control and wipe out ethnic armed resistance. Some villagers have experienced decades of displacement due to armed conflict and military operations.
During the period of direct military rule, the Burma military’s counter-insurgency operations involved direct attacks on civilians, including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests, forced displacements, looting and extortion, sexual violence, and forced labour, amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
This report draws on the life stories and testimonies of villagers who not only are living amidst the current waves of violence and abuse, but are survivors of the Burma military’s longstanding campaigns to eradicate all forms of opposition. In bringing together documentation of past and present abuses, this report helps provide an understanding of the impact of decades of state violence and military impunity on the lives of rural villagers in Karen State. Interwoven with these villagers’ stories is the wider history of atrocity crimes and rights violations documented by KHRG over the past 30 years. In revisiting KHRG’s past documentation, this report also shows the strength of local actors and local communities who have been working together to ensure that international stakeholders have the necessary evidence to take action against Burma’s oppressive military regime, despite the international community’s systematic inaction.
In showing that these abuses and these struggles are not new, KHRG hopes that this report will spark a change in the way in which human rights violations are addressed on the larger international level. The repeated failures of the international community to respond to the military regime’s violence against ethnic minorities in Burma over more than half a century should be proof enough that a shift in approach is required. This report thus serves as an invitation to listen to the villagers, whose voices are presented here, and to work with them in building a new way forward.
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