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Activists Accuse Burma of Mounting a State of Terror

Human Rights activists from Burma are appealing to the U.N. Human Rights Council and the international community to maintain pressure on the government's military rulers to end their repression of the country's Karen ethnic minority. The activists have issued a study that describes the group's situation. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The Burmese activists say the information in the study was collected by members of the Karen Women's Organization at great risk to their lives. The study, called "State of Terror," documents a wide-range of human rights abuses across Karen State, which borders Thailand.

It accuses the Burmese military regime of waging a sustained campaign of terror against people in the state. It documents about 4,000 cases of abuse in nearly 200 villages.

A co-author of the report, Blooming Night Zan, who is also a representative of the Karen Women's Organization, says Karen women are the main victims of government attacks. She says they are doubly oppressed because of their ethnicity and their gender.

"Ninety percent of all documented human rights violations in the report are forced relocations and forced laboring or portering," she said. "These violations have often been committed in conjunction with rape, beating, mutilation, cultural murder, denial of rights to food, water and shelter and denial of the right to legal redress."

"The State of Terror [report] shows the direct link of accountability of the Burmese military regime for its violations … atrocities committed within a human rights framework," she added.

Zan says increasing numbers of Karen are fleeing across the border into Thailand to escape the brutal treatment and many more people have become internally displaced. She says international action is needed to end the abuse.

Another Burmese activist, Win Naing, came to Geneva specifically to petition the U.N. Human Rights Council to monitor the situation in Burma.

Naing, who represents the Burmese government in exile or the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, says a strong voice is needed from the United Nations to protect his people.

The Human Rights Council is now debating whether it should do away with the special rapporteurs that investigate human rights violations in countries around the world. Naing urges the Council not to do this.

"We still need our special rapporteur on Burma," he said. "We still need a country resolution of Burma. Without the international institutions' involvement, there will be more and more human rights violations."

Naing says his group supports international sanctions against the military government because the so-called policy of constructive engagement does not work.

The peace activists say Burma has more than 1,300 political prisoners, including Nobel Laureate Aung San Sui Kui. They say they do not believe the government will free Sui Kyi from house arrest because they are afraid of her and of the support she receives from the people.