18 women gang-raped in Kachin state

Eighteen cases of gang-rape of Kachin women by Burmese troops have been confirmed by a Thailand-based rights group in the past three weeks, but it says the total could be nearer to 30.

A statement released today by the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT), which on Monday reported the rape of seven women, four of whom were then murdered, said that the 18 gang-rapes happened in an eight-day period between 10 and 18 June.

“Soldiers from five different battalions … committed the rapes, in four townships of Bhamo District,” the statement said. Bhamo has been the epicentre of fighting since 9 June between Burmese forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

It added that two particularly horrific incidents had occurred in two villages in Bhamo. In the first case, in Dum Bung village, Burmese troops “caught three families who had not managed to flee in time. Six women and girls were gang-raped, and seven small children killed”.

In Je Sawn village, soldiers “killed a 7-year-old girl and then gang-raped and killed her grandmother”.

While the allegations cannot be independently verified by DVB, there has been extensive historical documentation of rape by Burmese troops during military offensives in ethnic regions.

Opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi told a summit of Nobel prize winners in May that rape in Burma is a “very real problem” and “is used as a weapon by armed forces to intimidate the ethnic nationalities and to divide our country”.

Shirley Seing from KWAT said that reports of rape had come from five locations along the route being used by the Burmese army to mobilise columns as they continue their offensive against the KIA, which has launched several counterattacks in recent weeks.

“We only reported the 18 cases we could confirm, based on accounts from refugees and porters – we learnt there were about 30 cases,” said Shirley Seng.

The fighting is estimated to have displaced around 10,000 people, some of whom have crossed into China and some of whom have travelled to the KIA headquarters in Laiza, north of Bhamo.

The KWAT statement urged China to provide aid to the refugees and mediate in the conflict.

“The regime is committing atrocities on China doorstep, and destabilizing the border area … We believe it is in China’s interest to mediate towards a genuine resolution of the political root causes of the conflict.”

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