The Karen Human Rights Group envisions a future in which people in Burma achieve full human rights and justice.
KHRG is an independent local organisation committed to improving the human rights situation in Burma by projecting the voices of villagers and supporting their strategies to claim human rights. We aim to increase villagers’ capability and opportunity to claim their human rights, and ensure that their voices, priorities and perspectives influence decision makers. We encourage other local and international groups and institutions to support villagers’ self-protection strategies.
- Field Research: KHRG trains community members in eastern Burma to document individual human rights abuses using a standardised reporting format; conduct interviews with other villagers; and write general updates on the situation in areas with which they are familiar. Community members are trained to summarise recent events, raise issues that they consider to be important, and present their opinions or perspectives on abuse and other local dynamics in their area.
- Report-writing: In order to directly communicate the experiences and perspectives of villagers in eastern Burma, KHRG translates and publishes the Field Research on our website exactly as it was received in the form of Interviews, Incidents Reports and Situation Updates. To ensure villagers’ voices and priorities reach influence decision makers, KHRG staff compile and analyze the field information into thematic reports, area reports or in targeted submissions.
- Village Agency Workshops: Conducted at the community level, KHRG facilitates workshops that provide a space for villagers to share their experiences and support their self-protection strategies by gaining knowledge about international human rights standards and available national mechanisms that they can use to claim their rights.
- Local and International Advocacy: By sharing our Field Research, KHRG hopes to ensure villagers’ voices and strategies for coping with human rights abuse reach decision-makers who can influence their lives. We distribute our Field Documentation and Reports to local and international human rights organisations, national institutions in Burma, United Nations agencies and rapporteurs, foreign governments and embassies, academics, journalists, and others.
The Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) is a grassroots Karen-led human rights organisation, established in 1992 and now operating across rural southeastern Burma. With over twenty years of experience, and twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (2000 and 2001), KHRG is recognised internationally as a leading authority on issues such as forced labour, landmines, internal displacement and conflict in southeastern Burma. Most recently, we have been nominated for (2012 and 2013) and won (2013) the Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award, and KHRG staffers have been chosen to represent national civil society organisations in discussing land rights with the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission and the Myanmar Peace Center, and to testify before the United Nations Security Council about child soldiers.
KHRG is independent and unaffiliated; our commitment is to villagers whose voices are often ignored. To this end, our reporting follows their perspective on human rights: a holistic view that requires an understanding of how different factors and abuses combine, rather than the incident-based legal perspective favoured internationally. Our focus is on human rights abuses that impact villagers’ lives, including both conflict and development related abuses. KHRG documentation has revealed abuses such as forced labour, forced relocation and displacement, attacks on villages, extortion, looting, arbitrary detention, torture, sexual assault and executions; perpetrated extensively by the state military, but also by ethnic armed groups, companies and other actors operating in southeastern Burma. KHRG also documents abuses against other peoples in Burma whenever firsthand information is available.
KHRG’s documenting and reporting experience over the last 20 years have revealed that villagers regularly claim their rights and deploy a variety of strategies for coping, confronting, and resisting the demands and abuses they face from more powerful actors. Typical narratives frame villagers as passive victims and incapable of changing their own situation without outside intervention. This facilitates their continued exclusion from political processes such as ceasefire negotiations, aid programming, refugee repatriation negotiations, and from controlling the relief processes which are supposed to help them. KHRG is one of the only organisations to support the documentation of human rights abuses with a focus on villagers' responses and the way these responses can be supported.
International attitudes towards Burma have shifted considerably in light of the reforms embarked on since the 2010 election. These political reforms combined with the establishment of preliminary ceasefire agreements with many ethnic armed groups have resulted in changes to the human rights situation for villagers. While there are hopeful prospects for villagers to resume their lives in peace, the root causes of conflict need to be fully addressed in order to ensure sustainable peace for communities. In the context of ongoing militarization and impunity, villagers continue to face a range of human rights violations increasingly related to economic development. Lack of attention to their situation allows the government and businesses to embark on projects which exclude local priorities and ignore destructive impacts, while lack of knowledge about the situation encourages ineffective policy responses. All our reports and photos are available on this website and information is sent directly to interested members of the public through our mailing list.
Contributions are always needed and welcome, whether to cover office and mailing costs, logistical costs, or equipment and field operating costs. For information on how to contribute or other inquiries, please contact us through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through our contact page.
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The links below have been selected for their relevance to human rights and ethnic nationality issues in Burma.