The Karen People
The Karen tribe is one of the largest ethnic groups in Burma, making up around 7% of the Burmese population. Successive military dictatorships have persecuted the Karen people, forcing them from their homes and denying them basic human rights.

During the Second World War the Karen fought alongside the British against the invading Japanese forces. The end of the war failed to produce independence for the Karen, and when Burma became a sovereign state in 1948, the Karen tribe were persecuted for their sympathies with the now departed British.

The situation for the Karen worsened after an army-led coup in 1962, and deteriorated further after a military crack-down on dissidents in 1988. Although the military claim to only target ‘rebel’ groups, they often attack and destroy Karen villages, forcing thousands of Karen people from their homes.

In 2005 the army launched a large scale offensive in the Karen region. Since then, Amnesty International reports that “more than 140,000 Karen civilians have been killed, tortured, forcibly displaced,
sexually violated, forced to work, or otherwise subjected to widespread and systematic violations of human rights and humanitarian law”.

Thousands of Karen live as Internally Displaced People (IDPs), hidden in the jungles of Burma and vulnerable to attacks from the military. Many others have crossed the border into Thailand, where they live in large refugee camps without hope of being able to return home.

A new wave of attacks began as recently as 2009 forcing approximately 6000 Karen from their villages. As NGO continue to report serious and widespread human rights abuses by the Burmese army, it seems unlikely that the Karen will be able to live in peace under the current regime.