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Frequency of rape by Burmese army appalls researchers

May 26, 2009 (DVB), Rape of women by Burmese soldiers in Kachin state is common, and could be part of a campaign of ethnic cleansing by the Burmese army, a group investigating human rights abuses in northern Burma has found.

Despite a ceasefire agreement in 1994 between the Burmese army and the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), human rights violations remain very serious, said Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) who recently conducted a three-week research trip in Kachin state.

"We heard many stories of land confiscation, religious discrimination, human trafficking and various other violations," said Benedict Rogers, South Asia's Advocacy Officer for CSW.

Rogers was particularly appalled by the frequency of rape. In the CSW report, a Kachin claims that Burmese army soldiers raping Kachin women is a deliberate policy aimed at "mixing blood", designed to achieve "ethnic cleansing", although the report acknowledge the difficulty in verifying this accusation.

Earlier this month, however, a group of British MPs urged the United Nations to investigate "a campaign of ethnic cleansing Burma's military regime is carrying out against its ethnic nationalities," including use of "rape as a weapon of war".

The report highlighted the impunity which the Burmese army can operate under, documenting cases of rape and human trafficking that went ignored by authorities.

"We met for example a 21-year-old woman who had been raped just a few months ago. She had been getting off a train on her way to her village to visit her mother," he said.

"Two soldiers had approached her, raped her and then strangled her and left her for dead."

Like many others, she has filed complaints to the authorities but the perpetrators have not been punished.

Another threat to Kachin women is human trafficking. The report states that since 2006, there have been 138 documented cases of human trafficking in Kachin state.

The cases have primarily involved women between the ages of fifteen and 30 years who are usually trafficked to China and sold as wives to local men. Many of them have been sold multiple times.

The tense situation in Kachin state has been compounded since the Burmese regime asked the KIO to disarm and turn into border guards, which the KIO seem unlikely to accept, say CSW.

Reporting by Rosalie Smith


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