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ABSDF Media Release

Media Release
December 4, 1997

Report Links Economic Projects to Human Rights Abuses in Southern Burma

A new report released today by the All Burma Students' Democratic Front
(ABSDF) shows how major economic ventures in southern Burma have led to an
increase in human rights abuses against the local people as a result of a
corresponding military build up in the region. 

The 52-page report, 'Terror in the South: Militarisation, Economics and
Human Rights in Southern Burma', is based on information collected by the
ABSDF and the testimonies of local people from Tenasserim Division who have
fled the region into Thailand.

The report has found that human rights abuses against the local population
have increased as a result of the military's heightened presence in the
region to secure large scale infrastructure projects. These economic
projects include the Yadana gas pipeline, in which French oil giant Total
and the American company Unocal have major holdings, the Ye-Tavoy Railway,
eco-tourism ventures, the Yedagon gas pipeline and the construction of roads
and deep sea ports. 

As stated in the report, the testimonies of refugees who have fled to
Thailand show that the military has "forced civilians, including children,
the aged and pregnant women, to work as labourers to build the
infrastructure necessary to implement these economic projects. As a result,
ethnic people...have suffered the brunt of forced labour, forced relocation
of villages, extra-judicial killings, rape and torture."

The report goes on to state that "Thailand fails to recognise...the
connection between the human rights violations and its economic projects in
the region....Thousands of refugees have become the victims of the economic
interests of Thailand and Burma's military junta."

To secure these investments from attack by armed opposition groups, the
notorious Coastal Region Military Command has carried out its ruthless "Four
Cuts" campaign in which finance, food, intelligence and recruits are cut off
from the opposition forces. This campaign has led to thousands of civilians
being tortured and killed, or enslaved in forced labour camps. 

In February this year the SLORC also launched a major offensive against
Karen National Union (KNU) and ABSDF positions to secure the area and make
it more "attractive" to foreign investors. The report documents the human
rights abuses carried out by SLORC troops during this offensive, which
resulted in more than 1,000 civilians and prisoners being forcibly
conscripted as porters and caused an estimated 20,000 refugees to flee into

The report concludes by making a number of recommendations to Burma's
military regime, the international community, ASEAN members, the Thai
Government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

For further information call 01 654 4984 or 01 923 1687.