The Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) is a grass roots, locally-led human rights organisation operating across two states and two regions in eastern Burma (Myanmar). KHRG works directly with rural villagers who face abuses including forced labour, systematic destruction of villages and crops, forced relocation, extortion, looting, arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence and execution.
Since its establishment in Kayin State in 1992 the KHRG has envisioned a future where people in Burma (Myanmar) achieve full human rights and justice. To support this vision, KHRG seeks to further develop as an independent, credible and locally-led organisation working in close cooperation with local communities.
The organisation trains and equips local people to document villager’s stories and gather evidence of human rights abuses, and then disseminate this information worldwide. By working with local villages KHRG is also able to gain insight into how local people would respond to the human rights issues they face.
KHRG recognises that villagers themselves have the deepest understanding of the situation within which they live and that they are best placed to assess the options open to them for responding to and improving their own human rights conditions.
As steps towards potential peace take place in Burma (including an initial ceasefire agreement between the Karen National Union and the government of Myanmar in January 2012) the KHRG is cautioning against complacency. As with previous ceasefire agreements, the KHRG believes that without clearly defined terms or space for monitors, lasting peace will not be achieved.
The KHRG is also currently drawing people’s attention to the fact that human rights abuses in eastern Burma do not solely stem from armed conflict but from ingrained abusive practices and a lack of accountability for perpetrators. However the KHRG believes that by maximising the roles and input of rural villagers, these individuals will be able to take the lead in improving their own human rights situations.
As such, the KHRG advocates for local-level participation in ceasefire monitoring, transparent ceasefire terms and clearly-defined standards for the treatment of civilians.
In recognition of KHRG’s dedication to improving the human rights situation in Myanmar, the organisation has received the 1995 Peacefund Canada Honour Award, the 2001 Science for Peace Award (Canada), and has also been nominated for the John Humphrey Freedom Award (1998) as well as two Nobel Peace Prizes (2000 and 2001). KHRG won the 2013 Asia Democracy and Human Rights Award.