The Military Junta in Myanmar (Burma) says it has reached an agreement with Karen rebels fighting for over fifty years for more autonomy, justice and respect for human rights. Yangon said the agreement was signed in the presence of Htain Maung leader of the Karen National Union. The Union which always rejected the military junta which took power in 1989 has a force of 10,000 militants. A agreement confirms a cease fire treaty reached several months ago with which the army promised to lift pressure on civilians in certain Karen districts. The people appear to welcome the new agreement and hope for a return to normal live, particularly in rural communities. But observers say the Karen are divided in several factions and only a small part has signed the agreement while for the majority the armed struggle will continue. The Karen people, many of them are Christians, are the one of the larger ethnic minority groups in Myanmar. The battle for autonomy began after national independence in 1948 and became radical when the military took power in 1989 adopting an iron fist policy towards ethnic minorities. In what has been nothing less than civil war Karen, Karenni, Shan, Hmong peoples have been forced abandon homes and land. An estimated 200,000 Karen have been uprooted and at least 120,000 after crossing into Thailand are living in refugee camps there. According to the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, the main humanitarian agency operating in the area, in 2006 alone another 80,00 Karen ethnics left their homes and since 1996 at least 3,000 villages have been destroyed. Counting all the other ethnic groups an estimated one million Myanmar citizens have been displaced. Source: Fides
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