The Burma Army is accused of ongoing human rights violations –including the use of violent torture- according to a report by a grassroots humanitarian organization, the Karen Human Rights Group.
The human rights violations come amidst recent ceasefire agreements signed between Burma’s government and the two separate branches of Karen armed resistance – the Karen National Liberation Army, and the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army – in the last six months.
“Villagers in Kawkareik Township have continued to raise concerns regarding ongoing human rights abuses, including the arbitrary detention and violent abuse of civilians, and forced labor demands occurring as recently as February 24th 2012,” The report stated.
In one incident the Burma Army forced the locals from four surrounding villagers to provide 115 hand tractors in order to move rations and equipment to a military camp. Some of the villagers were then ordered to perform other menial tasks such as carrying water and buying food – under the threat of beatings if they refused.
The DKBA is also accused of employing forced labor and extortion from local enterprises. In March 2012 after one village had managed to develop a sawmill, the DKBA demanded an arbitrary tax of 4,000 baht and 1,500 planks of chopped wood from every villager. The DKBA also demanded a further 30,000 baht from the village, supposedly to pay for the building of a hospital.
The report alleges that the Burma Army uses arbitrary detention and torture to flush out members of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) or the Democratic Karen Buddhist Army (DKBA).
Examples of torture conducted by Burma Army battalions against these villagers included “severe beatings” in which prisoners were “punched and kicked until their skin was torn.” In one particular incident a man “had his shins burnt during interrogation.”
The report comes as the international community begins easing sanctions on Burma’s authoritarian government after promising signs of reform including the election into parliament of prominent Burmese pro-democracy figure Aung San Suu Kyi.