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Six leading international human rights groups have called on the Burmese government to drop all charges against a Kachin man who faces prison for alleging the Burmese army caused the death of his daughter.
In an open letter to Burmese President Thein Sein, the six organisations on Thursday jointly focused on the case of Brang Shawng, whose 14-year-old daughter was killed in Kachin State during clashes between Burmese government forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
“The criminal prosecution of Brang Shawng highlights a culture of disregard for human rights within Myanmar’s military, judiciary, and human rights commission,” said Matthew Smith, executive director of Fortify Rights. “The authorities should punish soldiers who commit crimes, not retaliate against individuals like Brang Shawng who seek truth and justice.”
Fourteen-year-old Ja Seng Ing sustained a fatal gunshot wound when she was shot on 13 September 2012 in the jade-mining town of Hpakant. Her father, Brang Shawng, filed a complaint with the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC), claiming a Burmese government soldier was responsible for the shooting. However after submitting the complaint, Brang Shawng was prosecuted under Article 211 of the Burmese Penal Code, under the crime of “making false charges”. If convicted, he could face “two or more years in prison”.
Phil Robertson, the Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch, Asia Division, discussing Brang Shawng's criminal case and the Myanmar Human Rights Commission (MNHRC).
On December 8, Fortify Rights, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights, the International Commission of Jurists, and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic sent a four-page open letter to President Thein Sein, which was published on 18 December.
The letter advised the Burmse government to “investigate Ja Seng Ing’s death, hold perpetrators accountable, and take measures to ensure that Burma’s courts and the MNHRC appropriately handle such cases in the future,” according to the press release.
There have been several investigations into the death of Ja Seng Ing, including one detailed in a 41-page report written by ten Kachin community-based organisations.
“The nature of Ja Seng Ing’s injury and her reported physical position at the time of being wounded are inconsistent with the Myanmar Army’s assertions in documents filed with the court that a KIA mine killed her,” according to the Fortify Rights press release.
“Moreover, eyewitnesses interviewed by Fortify Rights claim to have seen two Myanmar Army soldiers loading their weapons approximately 30 feet from where a group of six women and girls, including Ja Seng Ing, were hiding. This was followed by gunfire aimed in the direction of those in hiding. Fortify Rights believes it is likely that one of the two soldiers fired the shot that killed Ja Seng Ing.”
Earlier in December, the family of Ja Seng Ing also called on the Burmese government to investigate her death.