Myanmar's army is still committing human rights abuses against ethnic minorities in Karen state, according to a report [text PDF; press release] released Monday by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) [advocacy website]. PHR's findings were based on a field survey it conducted this year, in which 30 percent of families reported experiencing human rights violations. Abuses that were reported included forced labor, kidnapping, torture and sexual assault. Although PHR recognizes that Myanmar's government has taken significant steps toward democracy in the last two years by holding elections, releasing political prisoners and negotiating with ethnic armies, it maintains that these improvements have yet to impact the people of Karen. PHR recommended in its report that Myanmar not only take steps to negotiate ceasefires with ethnic minorities, but also reform political policies and take steps to eliminate human rights abuses in Karen.
Myanmar has been working to eliminate sectarian violence within its borders, but has recently been criticized by different groups for its methods and for human rights abuses. Last week, the country sentenced two UN staff members [JURIST report] to prison for their involvement in sectarian violence. This was one week after President Thein Sein announced creation of a 27-member commission [JURIST report] to investigate causes of the violence. Earlier this month, however, Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] accused Myanmar forces of committing multiple human rights violations [JURIST report] following an outbreak of sectarian violence. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also expressed concern [JURIST report] last month about both the continued violence in Myanmar and the country's human rights abuses committed in dealing with it.