Victims of a green cause

Published: Thursday 15 May 1997

MORE than 2,000 people belonging to the ethnic Karen community have been massacred in Burma since February by the Burmese army to clear their land for the Myinmoletkat Nature Reserve. Over 30,000 have been forced to work unpaid and unfed or to flee across the border to Thailand. Isolated by the rest of the world for its abysmal human rights record, Burma's military junta is keen on building its image as an environment-friendly nation and also on attracting foreign tourists.

The proposed nature reserve would be the biggest of its kind in the world. It is home to rare flora and fauna including tigers, elephants and the Sumatran rhinoceros. The government is being assisted in this project by top conservation agencies like the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington. The forestry ministry claimed that the World Wide Fund for Nature was also backing the project. Reports of forced labour, killing and torture by the army have also come in from Lanbi and other islands off the southern Burmese coast, which will be transformed into a marine national park.

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