Christian Solidarity Worldwide today issued the following response to the European Union's statement yesterday on the escalating crisis in Karen State, Burma:
"Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) welcomes the statement issued by the European Union yesterday in response to the current emergency in Karen State, Burma.
CSW believes, however, that a more timely response to the immediate and urgent crisis should have been made.
Furthermore, CSW expresses its concern about some aspects of the EU Statement.
We wish to remind the EU that the Karen National Union (KNU) has engaged in ceasefire talks with Burma's State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) on numerous occasions. The KNU has always emphasised its desire to find a solution through peaceful, political means. The SPDC has continuously disregarded requests for peace talks, or violated the spirit of such peace talks when they have taken place.
Furthermore, the current offensive in Karen State, the worst since 1997, is affecting thousands of unarmed, innocent civilians, including women and children. Over 13,000 civilians have been forcibly displaced. A nine year-old girl has been shot. Villagers have been beheaded, and one man's body was found with his eye gouged out and nose cut off. Civilians have been shot at point-blank range.
It is therefore misleading for the EU to refer in its statement to a "campaign against the Karen National Union". The term "dislocations" used in the EU Statement underestimates the scale of the crisis. Thousands of people have been forcibly displaced at gun-point.
CSW urges the EU and its member states, and the Council of Ministers, the European Commission and Members of the European Parliament, to unite in condemning unconditionally the atrocities currently perpetrated in Karen State.
CSW reminds the EU that gross violations of human rights have been perpetrated by the SPDC over many years, and continue to be perpetrated, not only in Karen State but also against other ethnic nationalities in Burma, including the Karenni, Shan, Mon, Chin, Kachin, Arakan, Wa and Rohingya, and against the National League for Democracy and other pro-democracy activists.
CSW urges the EU to adopt a more timely and robust position in regard to Burma."
The European Union issued a statement yesterday on the situation in Karen State. It said:
"The EU Presidency is very concerned by the fact that the Myanmar/Burmese Army has recently stepped up its campaign against the Karen National Union (KNU). The fighting is reported to have created a significant number of displaced persons in northern Karen state, and contributed to a further significant movement of refugees to Thailand.
The EU Presidency calls upon the Burmese leadership to cease abuses and dislocations of civilians in the zones of conflict and urges both sides to strictly adhere to international humanitarian law.
The EU supports the territorial integrity of Myanmar/Burma and the protection of human rights of all citizens and groups in the country regardless of ethnicity or religion. The EU Presidency strongly believes that the country's inter-ethnic conflicts should be resolved by peaceful political and democratic means.
The EU Presidency therefore calls upon the Government of Burma/Myanmar and the KNU to pursue talks leading to a genuine and lasting ceasefire and to a sustainable political settlement."
In recent weeks over 13,000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes in Karen State.