At least 100 dead in earthquake in Burma

Burma: Earthquake in civil war region

At least 100 people were killed yesterday in the earthquake in the Shan national region in eastern Burma, according to the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP). Most of the victims are indigenous Shan, as Shan human rights activists reported to the STP. "Rescue efforts are made more difficult by the fact that the epicenter of the quake, 48 kilometers north of the city of Tachilek on the Thailand border, is in a remote region near fiercely contested borders between nationalities," said Ulrich Delius of the STP's Asia section on Friday in Göttingen.

According to reports, 17 Burmese soldiers of the 316th infantry battalion and their families were also among the victims. The barracks at the military base collapsed. In a church in the town of Talerh, several people were killed in an aftershock when the roof of the church caved in. The victims had sought safety in the church after the initial quake. In the settlement of Tachilek, 80 coffins were sold today. In the town of Talerh, 20 kilometers north, at least 100 buildings were destroyed, including the hospital.

In the state of Shan, 20 armed Shan resistance movements have been fighting for the right to self-determination for more than 53 years. "The situation is often confusing, because the militias are constantly changing partners and often fight against the Burmese army," stated Delius. In mid-March 2011 the Burmese army launched a military offensive against the Shan resistance movement in the northern part of the Shan state.

In the past decades, tens of thousands of Shan escaped from the Shan nation into neighboring Thailand, fleeing the fighting and grave human rights abuses. From 1995 to 1998, as many as 1,500 Shan village communities were forcibly relocated.