Abducted Kachin woman still missing

A court hearing will be held in Burma’s capital next week into the suspected abduction of a Kachin woman by Burmese troops last year.

Twenty-eight year old Sumlut Roi Ja, who had a 14-month-old daughter has not been seen since she went missing on 28 October from Hkaibang village, in the northern state’s Momauk township. Troops from the army’s Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 321 are suspected of involvement, and several have been summoned to the 23 February hearing.

Her husband and father-in-law were also taken on 28 October, but later managed to escape. They claim that Burmese troops had accused them of links to the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), which has been battling the Burmese army since June last year. They both refute the accusation.

A relative of Sumlut Roi Ja says she was last seen on the morning following her abduction standing in front of a Burmese army outpost.

“We looked at the Montbo hill through binoculars and saw her outside the [Burmese army] base – she looked jittery as the soldiers were touching her inappropriately one after another,” said the relative.

“After that, we saw her being taken inside [the base] and she hasn’t emerged since. She is assumed dead – we held a prayer for her on 20 December.”

According to her family, the commander of LIB 321 said Sumlut Roi Ja would be released by 2 November last year. Her husband filed the lawsuit in late January.

Abuse of civilians in Kachin state since fighting broke out is thought to have been rife: the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT) said late last year that it had documented nearly 40 cases of rape of Kachin women by Burmese troops, while reports of forced labour have been common.

But the government-backed National Human Rights Commission said yesterday that it would not be investigating reports of abuse of civilians in Burma’s ethnic regions anytime soon.

Win Mra, chairman of the body, told AFP that it is “not appropriate at this present point in time”.

“With the establishment of the peace, other problems like human rights violations and atrocities supposed to be committed against ethnic groups will also recede into the background,” he said, adding that attempts at reconciliation were “essentially political”.

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