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Burma's Military Targets Karen Women for Abuse, Report Says 


A new report details widespread human rights abuses against Burma's ethnic Karen, particularly aimed at women, by the country's military over the past 15 years. As Ron Corben reports from Bangkok, a military offensive against the Karen has accelerated a pattern of abuse that includes rape and torture.

The report released Monday by the Karen Women's Organization says Burma's military government is maintaining a "regime of terror" in the Karen state in northeastern Burma.

In graphic detail the group charges the military using sexual torture to intimidate and humiliate members of the ethnic minority group. Women and children are also subjected to forced labor and displaced from their homes.

Naw Blooming Night Zan, the joint general secretary of the Karen Women's Organization, says the document details thousands of cases of brutality against women in Karen state and elsewhere.

"The report we launched today, there are about 4,000 cases - rape, torture. It's including beating, torture, murder, denial of food, water, shelter and denial of right to legal redress," she said. "Among the cases 90 percent are forced labor and portering."

There are reports of gang rapes and sexual abuse with the victims then being shot by soldiers. The report mirrors allegations raised in 2002 against the Burmese military's use of rape as a weapon against civilians in Shan State in the northeast.

The military government, known as the State Peace and Development Council, or SPDC, stepped up a campaign against the Karen last year, soon after moving to a new administrative capital at Naypyidaw, 400 kilometers from Rangoon.

A few years before that, the Karen had reached a temporary ceasefire with the government and were preparing for more formal peace talks.

Tens of thousands of ethnic minority groups in Burma have been forced from their homes over the past several years.

Many live in refugee camps along the border, and aid agencies say the rest hide in the jungle, where they are vulnerable to hazards such as malaria and land mines.

Naw Blooming says the international community must respond to the growing crisis.

"We want the international [community] to pressure the Burmese regime to stop all kinds of violence against Karen women and ethnic women in Burma and to immediately stop their offensive inside Karen state," she added.

The report comes just a month after China and Russia vetoed passage of a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding an end to human rights abuses in Burma.

Burma has been under the control of the military for the past 40 years. Despite promised moves toward democracy, little progress has been made in drafting a new constitution and holding elections.

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