killings, burning of villages and the capture of civilians, including children, investigators confirmed Tuesday, June 6.
"It is difficult to imagine the indiscriminate brutality of these atrocities," said Tina Lambert, Advocacy Director of Christian Solidarity Worldwide, which has close contacts in Burma, also known as Myanmar, in a statement to BosNewsLife.
Free Burma Rangers, another relief team working in eastern Burma, claimed the number of displaced people in Karen State has risen to over 18,000 in what investigators described as the "biggest offensive since 1997."
In one area, over 800 civilians were captured and forced to work as porters for the military, along with over 1,000 prisoners, the group added.
The Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 362 allegedly attacked and burned Ger Baw Kee village in northwestern Muthraw District last week. The day before the June 2 attack Naw Yo Hta and Kay Pu villages "suffered a third day of mortar attacks," by three army battalions, investigators said.
Escaped porters were quoted as saying that the Burmese forces plan to expand their operation further, by attacking Myaunglebin, Toungoo and Muthraw Districts. The Burmese army is reportedly moving at least two divisions closer to those areas.
CSW said that as the military operations continue "villagers have been shot at point-blank range, and several bodies have been found which have been severely mutilated and beheaded."
In addition, the Free Burma Rangers reported that since May 13, "the Burma army ‘Byaung Shin Special Batallion’ has been attempting to capture Karen children who go to school in army controlled areas, but whose parents live in the hills east of Toungoo."
In attacks in Muthraw District on May 20, a 17 year-old boy was killed and another wounded when the army opened fire on villagers who were in a farm hut in southern Luthaw Township, the group claimed. In Nyaunglebin District, a Burma Army landmine apparently killed a Karen woman who was five months pregnant.
The crisis in Burma has drawn increasing attention from the international community, CSW said. "On May 31, [British] Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett, condemned the Burmese Government’s decision to extend the house arrest of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Daw Aung San Suu Kyi."
The United States also expressed alarm at Aung San Suu Kyi’s continuing detention and that of other pro-democracy figures. The US reportedly seeks a UN Security Council resolution on Burma.
However "whilst we are pleased to see the US putting more pressure on Burma through the UN Security Council, we urge the rest of the international community to follow their lead and seek an end to these attacks by supporting a clear resolution," Lambert added.
Villagers have been attacked amid an ongoing struggle between the current military government, known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and mainly Christian ethnic groups, including the Karen as well as the smaller Karenni, Shan, Mon, Chin, Kachin, Arakan and Rohingya minorities, BosNewsLife established.
The SPDC consists of a group of generals who have governed Burma, also known as Myanmar, by decree without a constitution or legislature since 1988, when armed forces suppressed massive pro-democracy demonstrations.
SPDC officials have denied wrongdoing and accuse Westerners and "internal destructive elements" of spreading "fabrications."
Like previous governments in the country, the generals claim they have a sacred obligation to hold the nation of over 47 million together and stamp out "separatist rebellions" among its 135 officially recognized races.
Human rights workers claim the SPDC fears the spread among especially the Karen people of Christianity, which it sees as a pro-Western religion and a threat to its ideology and power base. (With BosNewsLife reporting in Burma, BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos and other reports).