Violence in Myanmar Exposed By Satellite Images

September 28, 2007

Satellite images of eastern Myanmar (Burma) seem to corroborate reports of human-rights violations in the troubled Southeast Asian country, an international team of experts announced today.

A detailed analysis of images spanning several years pinpoints locations where villages have been burned, settlements have been relocated, and military forces have expanded their camps.

Project participants hope that the images will force the ruling military junta to account for its practices in front of the international community.

"We are trying to send a message to the military junta that we are watching from the sky," Aung Din, policy director for the U.S. Campaign for Burma, said today in a telephone briefing with reporters.

Din's organization is one of three human rights groups collaborating with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) on the project.

In recent days, the project team also ordered satellites to document the current military crackdown against escalating antigovernment street protests in Yangon and other cities (see a Myanmar map).

The images may prove especially valuable now that phone lines and public Internet access have been shut down in the country, noted Lars Bromley, project director for AAAS.

"These images, if they come through, will be one of the few ways to really understand the level of deployment of the military regime around the cities," he said.

Abuses Documented

Myanmar became a military state in 1962 and has since frequently clashed with pro-democracy groups.

The country's Prime Minister-elect Aung San Suu Kyi—the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner and leader of the National League for Democracy—has been imprisoned by the military junta for nearly a dozen years.

The people of Myanmar have been largely living in poverty, experts say, and several ethnic groups have been systematically abused or displaced.

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