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12 nations plan protests against Myanmar junta

Demonstrations are to be staged outside Myanmar embassies in 12 countries to protest junta's crackdown on the Karen ethnic group.

india Updated: May 13, 2006 11:11 IST

Demonstrations are to be staged outside Myanmar embassies in 12 countries next week to protest the ruling regime's crackdown on the Karen ethnic group and call for action from the UN, activists announced on Saturday.

"Citizens in 12 countries around the world are planning large demonstrations and other action next Tuesday, May 16, to respond to major attacks on ethnic minorities in eastern Myanmar," said a press release by the US Campaign for Burma here.

An estimated 15,500 Karen villagers have fled their homes in eastern Myanmar over the past five months after the ruling military junta moved their headquarters to Pyinmana, 300 km north of Yangon, and launched a "cleaning up operation" against all Karen living in a five km radius of the new capital.

Many of the refugees have fled to the Thai-Myanmar border, where more than 100,000 Karens have been languishing in temporary shelters since 1996 as a result of attacks on more than 2,800 Karen villages.

The Karen are one of the largest ethnic minority groups in Myanmar, residing primarily in the Karen State. They have been waging a guerrilla war against Yangon for the autonomy of their state since 1949.

The Karen National Union (KNU) is the only rebel group that has refused to sign a peace agreement with Myanmar's ruling junta, the self-styled State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

Attacks on the Karen over the past decade have resulted in well-documented atrocities and widespread human rights abuses.

"Kofi Annan and members of the UN Security Council must immediately condemn these attacks and publicly state that the council must pass a resolution demanding change," said Jeremy Woodrum, campaigns director at the US Campaign for Burma.

"If the Security Council fails to act as the rainy season approaches in the coming weeks, many people will die."

Protests and rallies are planned at Myanmar embassies in the US, Canada, Britain, Japan, India, Belgium, Australia, Thailand, Norway, New Zealand, Korea, and Denmark.