Burmese refugees welcome Obama's call to investigate war crimesby Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio
St. Paul, Minn. — Burmese refugees in Minnesota are welcoming news that the Obama administration called this week for a U.N. commission to investigate war crimes in their homeland.
Nearly 5,000 Burmese took refuge in Minnesota from Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Many of them are Karen, members of an ethnic minority that has been battling the military junta in eastern Myanmar for decades. Most Karen refugees are in the Twin Cities, although hundreds also live in Worthington.
Mahn Robert Bazan lives in St. Paul; he fled his homeland in 2000. His grandfather was once head of the Karen National Union and his mother and sisters were imprisoned by the government for years.
Bazan said refugees welcome the Obama administration's tougher line on Myanmar, but said he doesn't hold out much hope the U.N. will make significant changes to the human rights situation there.
"The final stage U.N. security council decision, China will veto, to protect the military junta," he said.
Myanmar has elections scheduled in November, but has thrown out the results in the past.
The military government reportedly holds thousands of political prisoners already, the most famous of them being Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Opponents say they want the U.N. to look into a violent crackdown on a 1988 democratic uprising thought to have killed as many as 6,000 people, as well as a 2007 uprising by Buddhist monks, which also met with violent suppression.
Representatives of the Karen community also say the Rangoon government has led a campaign of ethnic cleansing in eastern Myanmar, using forced labor, imprisonment and torture to try and suppress the Karen.
The Karen represent a Christian minority in the country, and have held an autonomous area in the country for years.