MYANMAR:Burma Army Does Not Stop Human Rights Abuses in Kachin State

Thursday, July 7, 2011
South Eastern Asia
PeaceWomen Consolidated Themes: 
Sexual and Gender-Based Violence

Despite efforts to initiate a ceasefire negotiation on June 17 and 30 by means of meetings between representatives of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Burmese government, fresh clashes between the KIA and Burma armed forces took place on July 2 and 3 in different parts of the Kachin State, Kachin News Group has reported.

On July 2, the Mohnyin Township – Sinbo-based and KIA Battalion 5 – was engaged with Burmese soldiers who tried to penetrate the KIA-controlled area. At least 20 Burmese soldiers died, according to an unnamed source.

In the Northern Shan State, KIA Battalion 9, under command of KIA Brigade 4, attacked a Burmese army truck carrying ten Burmese soldiers while entering the KIA-controlled area. The truck was destroyed and all soldiers in it died.

Heavy fighting between KIA Battalion 15 and the Burmese government's Infantry Battalion (IB) No. 236, Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 348, and IB No. 144 took place on the evening of July 3 at the Sang Gang Valley in the N'mawk Township in Manmaw (Bhamo) district. The clash occurred when Burmese soldiers tried to take position in the area close to the KIA military camp.

Burmese troops fired heavy weapons during the fighting at Sang Gang. However, the number of casualties from both sides is still unknown.

In this April 17, 2010 photo, recruits of the Kachin Independence Army, one of the country's largest armed ethnic groups, form up before lunch at a training camp near Laiza in Burma/Myanmar. Pic: AP.

The crisis in relations between the Burmese military and ethnic Kachin has been worsening for years. It has recently hit the highest point of confrontation. There were many cases of abuse, torture, rape, looting and forced labors which remain undisclosed. The number of abuses is greater than those released by the Burmese news media based outside the country.

In recent weeks, 18 women and girls were gang raped by Burmese soldiers; four of whom were killed after being raped. The soldiers killed three girls and raped a woman in front of her husband, who was then forced to work for them. In frontline areas, Burmese soldiers are committing crimes freely as there are no effective or appropriate penalties in place by senior authorities.

According to the Democratic Voice of Burma, use of rape as a weapon of war has long been documented in the country by the rights group. The Shan Women's Action Network's landmark ‘License to Rape' report in 2002 cited 173 incidents of rape by Burmese troops in the Shan state alone, between 1996 and 2001. Of these, around 61 percent were believed to be gang rapes, while a quarter resulted in deaths.

The Kachin people have long suffered violence and abuse such as forced labor, land confiscation, looting, torture, rapes and execution. The KIA was formed in 1961 due to the lack of equal rights in the Kachin State. Forced labor, rape and execution are normal practices of the Burmese Army in the ethnic regions, including the Kachin State.

The newly-designated government headed by President Thein Sein, who is also the chairman of the military-backed party the USDP, still controls the system of the government, including courts and the armed forces. However, it has been noticed that the new government is acting similarly to the old one – infamous for its decade-long old military absolutism – with newly-retired generals still making the decisions.

Burma's 64-year-old Historic Panglong Agreement has so far been ignored by the Burmese military regime. The agreement has been disregarded by generals while they rule the country. The Panglong Agreement was signed on Feb 12 1947, between General Aung San and leaders of the Chin, Kachin and Shan ethnic groups, guaranteeing to establish a genuine federal union of Burma.

So far, heavy battles are taking place throughout the Kachin State and the Northern Shan State with Thein Sein government soldiers intruding into KIA territories, a KIA source in Laiza has said.