Shan Refugees: Dispelling the Myths

Reports & Documents — By on April 20, 2006 10:51 am

Shan State was once an autonomous region in Burma. After Burma gained independence from the British in 1948, the Shans were promised the right to secede after ten years, but this promise was never kept as civil war between the ethnic nationalities and the ruling authorities broke out soon after independence. Instead, Burma has been ruled by a series of military regimes since 1962. Civil war between these regimes, dominated by the Burman majority, and the country’s ethnic nationalities has inflicted suffering on the people of Burma for decades. This suffering has intensified under the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), which seized power after a brutal crackdown on thousands of peaceful demonstrators in 1988. Elections were held in 1990 and the National League of Democracy won a landslide victory. However, the regime refused to honour the results of the elections and until today uses military force to maintain authoritarian rule over the country. The SPDC has authorized increased militarisation and anti-insurgency campaigns in Shan State and other ethnic areas, resulting in large numbers of internally displaced persons and an exodus of refugees to Thailand and other neighbouring countries.

Since 1992 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) has passed resolutions
condemning systematic violations of human rights in Shan State and elsewhere in Burma. In 1994, the UNCHR recommendation said, “The Government of Myanmar should take the necessary steps to bring the acts of soldiers, including privates and officers, in line with accepted international human rights and humanitarian standards so that they will not commit arbitrary killings, rapes and confiscations of property, or force persons into acts of labour, portering, relocation or otherwise treat persons without respect for their dignity as human beings.” The Special Rapporteur on Burma’s 2003 report contains similar recommendations. Yet, to date, the military regime continues to commit extreme human rights violations against the people of Burma.

Since 1996, the people of Shan State have been particularly targeted for persecution by the military regime in order to stop the resistance efforts of the Shan State Army and to secure control over the state’s rich natural resources. Over 300,000 Shan and other ethnic people have been forced from their homes in central Shan State by the Burmese military, including from lands needed to build a largescale hydropower dam on the Salween river.

Shan Refugees: Dispelling the Myths (English version)

Shan Refugees: Dispelling the Myths (German version)