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Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

Researchers call on governments to protect human rights in tsunami affected areas

– An international team of researchers today (Monday, June 6) reported that five months after the December 2004 tsunami, significant human rights problems persist in areas affected by the tidal wave.

In surveys of tsunami survivors and aid workers in five tsunami-affected countries - India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Thailand - the researchers found that vulnerable groups, including women, children and migrants, are suffering from violence and exploitation.

The findings, along with recommendations for action, were released following a two-day meeting of researchers and aid workers this weekend (June 3 and 4) in Bangkok, Thailand.

The meeting, "After the Tsunami: Human Rights and Vulnerable Populations," was sponsored by the University of California, Berkeley's Human Rights Center; the University of Hawaii's Globalization Research Center; and the East-West Center, an internationally recognized research and education organization in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Researchers from the sponsoring organizations found that abuses are being caused by a lack of protection for individuals who lost their homes and are living in displacement camps; aid distribution is often lacking or discriminatory because of corruption, favoritism and poor management; decisions about relief, relocation and reconstruction aid are largely taking place without consultation with the affected communities; and in Sri Lanka, where armed conflict is ongoing, children are being recruited to serve as combatants. In both Aceh, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, adults are living in fear among warring groups.

According to the researchers, these are abuses that contravene the United Nation's Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement and other international human rights agreements.

The researchers today called on governments, donors and aid agencies engaged in tsunami relief and reconstruction efforts to take an approach that is centered around the best interests of survivors. They also recommended several measures that should be taken to protect vulnerable groups from further exploitation and violence.