Eastern Burma is the site of the world’s longest ongoing military conflict. As the Burmese Army continues its war against ethnic minorities and pushes for complete totalitarian control of the region, half a million people have been forced out of their homes.
A new report released by the Free Burma Rangers and Partners Relief and Development documents the current situation of eastern Burma’s 580,000 internally displaced civilians. The report, titled Displaced Childhoods, documents the heinous abuses the junta inflicts upon Burma’s children. The everyday lives of these children are violently disrupted by poverty and insecurity. Children are subjected to extrajudicial killings, torture, rape, forced labor, and conscription as child soldiers. Displaced Childhoods is the first comprehensive report documenting the experiences of internally displaced children in Burma and how their situation is the direct result of the military regime violating its own laws, which state that “every child has the right to survival, development, protection and care, and to achieve active participation in the community.”
It is estimated that there are 1-3 million internally displaced people (IDPs) hiding inside Burma. One third of these IDPs are children. The Burmese Army attack ethnic minority villages, burning homes and schools to the ground. Villagers flee into the jungle with no supplies, save for those they can carry on their backs. Although some IDP communities set up camp near their ravaged villages, the junta heavily mines the areas to keep displaced people from returning for food and supplies. The junta has long relied on landmines to control the movement of civilians in conflict areas, making eastern Burma is the most heavily mined region in the world. IDP children are made even more vulnerable by their lack of access to clean water and sustainable food supplies as well as shelter, schooling, and health care.
The report calls for the UN to create a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the continuing crimes against humanity in eastern Burma as well as urges the international community to apply pressure to the regime to end human rights abuses. The report cites the UN Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, which states that national authorities are responsible for the prevention of conditions that may lead to displacement.