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Aid Groups Say Burma Continues Rights Abuses in Eastern States


A new report says an increased troop presence in eastern Burma has led to tens of thousands of people being displaced because of human rights abuses. Ron Corben reports from Bangkok.

The Thailand Burma Border Consortium says rights abuses by Burma's military along the eastern border with Thailand are growing worse. The group says Burma refuses to give aid groups access to the region.

The Bangkok consortium is an alliance of 11 aid and advocacy organizations from nine countries that provide aid to displaced Burmese, particularly along the border with Thailand.

The report says in the past year more than 66,000 people were forced out of their homes in northern Karen state, where the government is fighting insurgents from ethnic minority groups.

A consortium director, Sally Thompson, says the humanitarian situation in the area has worsened.

"We have to say it is an ongoing deterioration in Burma and what the report highlights is that the violations of humanitarian and human rights law in the conflict areas of eastern Burma as systematic as ever and ongoing," said Thompson.

Aid groups estimate there are more than half a million people displaced within Burma, most of them in Karen and Shan States.

Tens of thousands others live in refugee camps in Thailand, while thousands more work illegally around Southeast Asia.

The report says that increased economic activity and development in eastern Burma has meant the government has sent more troops there. That makes things worse for area residents.

The report says people are forced to work on development projects and to build army bases. Thompson says many are detained and abused.

"If people are suspected of a relationship with the resistance movement, with the insurgents, they are often brought in for questioning, they are interrogated, they are detained," added Thompson. "And if they are suspected of having a relationship it can go as far as torture leading to death in detention."

The release of the report comes as the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who is expected to visit Burma in December, this week expressed frustration over the lack of progress on political reforms.

Ban has warned he will cancel the trip unless he is confident it will achieve tangible results on reforms.

Burma's military government, in power since 1962, crushed protests led by Buddhist monks in September last year. At least 30 people died in the crackdown and hundreds were arrested.

Most Western governments have imposed economic sanctions on Burma, to push the government to ease political repression. But its neighbors, including India and China, continue to do business in Burma, where the government largely controls the economy.