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Are Burma's aid delays discriminatory?

Minority groups, uch as the Karen, inhabit much of the cyclone-hit Irrawaddy Delta.

MINORITIES: Rights groups have long accused Burma’s military of abusing Karens, an ethnic group.

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Since 1949, the Burmese military has waged a war in the east against mainly Christian Karen ethnic minorities, who for centuries have also inhabited the country's Irrawaddy Delta.

Today, Karen leaders and aid workers fear that the 60-year old conflict may be part of the reason the government of Burma (Myanmar) is aiding some people and not others in the southern region devastated by the May 3 cyclone Nargis, where Karens make up an estimated half of the population.

"[Ethnicity] is one of the reasons why the government is blocking international aid from entering the delta. It's already 10 days now," says David Tharckabaw, secretary-general of the Karen National Union, a political group with a military wing based in Mae Sot, a Thai town at the Burmese border. "Many Karens are fishermen or farmers living in the worst storm-hit areas."

Human rights workers cite unconfirmed reports that friends and family have been separated by boatmen evacuating ethnic Burmans from the Delta while leaving Karens behind.


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