Satellite images indicate abuses in Myanmar (formerly Burma)

An analysis of satellite images performed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) seems to indicate evidence of villages being razed by the military in Myanmar (formerly known as Burma) over the course of the last several years.

0928burma_report_b.jpg

A before image (top) depicts a small settlement in Burma on 5 May 2004, and again on 23 February 2007, with all structures removed. The images correspond with information provided by the Free Burma Rangers regarding December 2006 attacks at and near the Burmese village of Kwey Kee. (Lat: 18.79 N Long: 96.76 E.)

Credit: Top Image: © GeoEye, Inc. Bottom Image: © 2007 Digital Globe.

Myanmar has been in the grip of violent unrest in the past few days, the worst since 1988. The military junta in control has long been accused of human rights violations. U.S. Ambassador Jackie W. Sanders has gone on record saying Burmese military forces systematically rape women and girls -- especially those of the Shan, Karen, Karenni, and other ethnic minorities.

Yesterday, the Bush administration slapped financial sanctions on Myanmar, with the intent of shutting the military junta out of the international banking system. President Nicolas Sarkozy of France has also called for a stop in outside investment in the country.

Today, apparently the military junta has clamped down on the Internet in order to prevent bloggers from telling the outside world about protests in Burma.

The AAAS offered high-resolution satellite images today as visual proof of state-ordered destruction.

At a press conference earlier today, Lars Bromley of the AAAS detailed some of the findings. Entire villages have been burned, military camps have grown in size, and people have been forced to move against their will."

"We saw evidence of forced relocation," he said, also talking about villages that were burned. "People are being moved from outlying areas to areas near the military camps so that they can be closely watched."

The AAAS researchers were told of 70 instances of human rights violations and they mapped the locations of 31. An analysis of satellite images revealed visual clues that implied that 25 sites had definitely had seen abuse, they said. Wherever possible, Bromley compared older satellite images with recent images to get a "before" and "after" perspective.

"Eighteen of the locations showed evidence consistent with destroyed or damaged villages," Bromley reported in a statement. "We found evidence of expanded military camps in four other locations as well as multiple possibly relocated villages, and we documented growth in one refugee camp on the Thai border. All of this was very consistent with reporting by multiple human rights groups on the ground in Burma."

The entire report is available at:

http://www.eurekalert.org/images/release_graphics/pdf/burmareport_24sept2007_press.pdf

Bromley relied upon the Free Burma Rangers, the Karen Human Rights Group, and the Thailand Burma Border Consortium for field accounts of military oppression and destruction.

Images were provided by two firms: GeoEye, Inc (Nasdaq:GEOY) and DigitalGlobe.

AAAS had previously used the same technology to assess destruction in Darfur and Zimbabwe. The latest research was supported by the Open Society Institute and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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