A report was released yesterday by a women’s group, revealing an ongoing situation of desperation and heightened fear in Kachin State and northern Shan State.
Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT) said its most recent report, titled A far cry from peace, “documents the ongoing Burma Army offensives and abuses in northern Burma under the NLD government.”
KWAT says: “Despite hopes that the new government led by the National League for Democracy (NLD) would move the peace process forward and bring an end to fighting, Burma Army offensives in the north of the country have intensified.”
Speaking to DVB on Tuesday, KWAT’s Seng Zin said, “Most of the cases that happen with the military—we cannot find justice for the victims and survivors.”
The report claims that the Burmese army has deployed additional battalions to the region, as well as fighter jets, which have waged indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas.
The number of displaced villagers has also grown since the Aung San Suu Kyi-led government took office this year. New offensives, including attacks in Muse Township, have added to the 100,000 internally displaced persons in Kachin and northern Shan State camps. Concern about restricted humanitarian aid access to camps in government and non-government areas, as well as intimidation of villagers, was also highlighted in the report.
Fresh human rights abuses have been documented as recently as October, when 49 villagers were charged with unlawful association and detained on suspicion of contact with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
“There has been frequent arbitrary arrest and torture of male villagers,” stated KWAT, before documenting 21 torture cases in detail in the report, where “villagers were tied up, blindfolded, kicked, hit with guns, had bamboo rolled on their shins, and were stabbed with knives.”
Seng Zin reinforced a plea to the government to facilitate an independent investigation into a case involving the rape and murder of two Kachin teachers in January last year, as well as other human rights violations. She adds that there has been no improvement in attempts to seek justice for past Burmese army violations.
“We’d like to do some work with an independent commission,” she said. “We would like to work with the ICC [International Criminal Court] as we understand simply that if you have committed a crime you should face punishment.”
Calls were made to the international community to denounce the ongoing offensives by Burma’s government forces, and to stop investments in resource extraction and large-scale infrastructure until there is genuine federal reform. It was also warned that peace funding should not be skewed in favour of the government side of the conflict.
The report concluded: “The pattern of Burma Army abuse and impunity is the same as under the previous government, while the offensives have worsened.”
A list of urgent recommendations was put to the government, such as a “call for an immediate end to the Burma Army offensives so that inclusive political dialogue towards genuine federal reform can begin.” In resource-rich Kachin State, KWAT also recommends that a moratorium be imposed on all resource extraction until peace prevails.
The report also provided a detailed list of Burmese military abuses from November 2015 to October 2016, and a map outlining its offensives.
Seng Zin said that Kachin civilians and NGOs have experienced a backlash since their peaceful demonstration last month in Myitkyina, where they called for an end to the conflict in Kachin State.
“Police questioned us over our slogans such as ‘Stop firing [on] Kachin State!’ and ‘Condemn the rape of women’,” she explained. Later, demonstration leaders were summoned to appear in court and were questioned over their roles in the demonstration.
Seng Zin said she hopes for a genuine dialogue at the next 21st Century Panglong Conference about how to resolve the conflict in Kachin State.
“We have to raise our voices so that more people can hear what is happening in Kachin State,” she concluded.