Violence in Myanmar Exposed By Satellite Images

From National Geographic.

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.

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.

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.

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

The release of the satellite analysis comes at a time when Myanmar has drawn international attention due to a growing conflict between protestors and the military government.

A government crackdown that started this Wednesday has included raids on monasteries and shots fired into crowds. The military has reported ten fatalities, although the exact death toll is uncertain.

At least one confirmed death is that of Japanese journalist Kenji Nagai, a photographer for the AFP news service. Images smuggled out of the country seem to show Nagai being deliberately shot by a military gunman.

Din, of the U.S. Campaign for Burma, said he hopes the newly released satellite images will increase political pressure and rally other governments—including Burma's closest ally, China—to take action.

"With this satellite imagery," he said, "at least we are able to organize international activists around the world to stand together with us to put the pressure on the Chinese government to change its policy on Burma."

Related: Dalai Lama Offers Support to Myanmar Monks.


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