Worst army attacks in years displace thousands

Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, 10 May 2006

Human rights abuses in ethnic minority areas are the single most important cause of conflict-induced internal displacement in Burma and the scale of atrocities committed by the Burmese army is unparalleled within Asia. As of October 2005, at least 540,000 people were internally displaced in eastern Burma, either living in temporary sites in ceasefire areas, in hiding close to their villages or in relocation sites. The largest concentration of internally displaced people (IDPs) is found among the Karen, Karenni, Shan and Mon ethnic groups in eastern Burma. Surges of attacks by the Burmese army since autumn 2005 have compelled thousands to flee, especially in the Karen state where 11,000 people have been reported displaced during the months of March and April 2006 alone. Elsewhere in Burma, human rights violations led to the displacement of large numbers of civilians as well, but no firm estimate exists on the extent of the problem. Displacement due to large-scale development projects is also on the increase, one current example being the forced relocation of dozens of villages along the Salween River. In addition, hundreds of thousands more have been displaced in schemes to resettle the urban poor.

While an increasing number of people in the country face a deteriorating humanitarian situation, Burma's internally displaced are particularly vulnerable and face acute humanitarian problems in health, nutrition and education. In December, the UN Security Council received a briefing on the human rights situation in Burma and the Association for South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) openly showed concern for the first time by sending a delegation to the country in March 2006. International and regional actors should take every opportunity to raise the need for humanitarian access with the military regime and should develop a common policy vis--vis the government in order to improve protection and assistance to Burma's internally displaced.