Relations between the US and Burma (Myanmar) are once again strained following a report by Thailand-based human rights activists that charges the Burmese military with using systematic rape of ethnic civilians as a war tactic. In recent months, the Burmese government “aiming to gain favor from the Bush administration” released Nobel Peace Prize activist Aung San Suu Kyi and also hired a lobbying firm to facilitate the relation-building process. However, the report released by the Shan Human Rights Foundation and the Shan Women’s Action Network has prompted the State Department to issue warnings to the junta, calling for full investigation of the charges and punishment for “those guilty of such heinous crimes,” said a State Department official.
In a letter to Myanmar’s ambassador to the United States, the Burmese government rejected the report’s documentation of the rape of at least 625 girls and women in the largest ethnic minority state of Shan, which is currently seeking independence. “You will find that they are nothing but unverified testimonies said to have been provided by the so-called victims on the other side of the border.”