Up to 66,000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes in eastern Burma in the past year because of systematic abuses by the country’s ruling military, an aid group said on Wednesday.
The Thailand Burma Border Consortium (TBBC), which provides aid to hundreds of thousands of refugees who flee Burma, formally known as Burma, said in a new report that the junta’s actions could constitute crimes against humanity.
“The extent of persecution and suffering in the border areas has been largely unseen and under-reported for decades,” said Jack Dunford, TBBC’s executive director.
“Yet the same brutal army that crushed protests on city streets last September marauds with impunity in rural Burma, bringing fear and disrupting the lives of villagers on a day to day basis.”
The TBBC report accuses the military of systematically forcing villagers from their homes in Burma’s eastern Karen and Shan states.
Forced labour, land confiscation, and restricting people’s access to farmland and markets also has a devastating economic impact, it added.
The group said that their findings appeared to support London-based Amnesty International’s report that the violations in eastern Burma “meet the legal threshold to constitute crimes against humanity.”
Amnesty said in a June report that Burma was committing crimes against humanity by targeting civilians during its military offensive against ethnic rebel armies who have been battling the junta’s rule for decades.
Civilians living in the areas affected have been subjected to abuses including torture, forced labour, killings, arbitrary arrest and the destruction of homes, villages, farmland and food stocks, Amnesty said.