Untold Miseries in Burma’s Kachin State
Army Abuses & Blocked Aid
Burma, officially the Union of Myanmar, may have taken some positive steps to improve human rights but rights abuses are on the rise in its northern Kachin state bordering China. Regular fighting is also being reported between the Burmese army and Kachin rebels resulting into displacement of some 75,000 ethnic Kachin who are in need of food, medicine, and shelter.
A new report by Human Rights Watch titled — Untold Miseries: Wartime Abuses and Forced Displacement in Burma’s Kachin State — describes how the Burmese army has attacked Kachin villages, razed homes, pillaged properties, and forced the displacement of tens of thousands of people. Soldiers have threatened and tortured civilians during interrogations and raped women. The army has also used antipersonnel mines and conscripted forced labourers, including children, on the front lines.
Also, in Washington, refugees from Burma urged the United States to focus more attention on the rights of ethnic minorities, saying that abuses persist despite the country’s heralded reforms. Activists handed to the US government a petition they said was signed by nearly 5,000 refugees living in the United States who hail from eight different ethnic groups.
According to Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at the Human Rights Watch, “The Burmese army is committing unchecked abuses in Kachin State while the government blocks humanitarian aid to those most in need.”
Greater Voice feels that must then both the army and Kachin rebels need to act to prevent a bad situation for civilians from getting even worse. The Burmese government and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) should take effective measures to end abuses by their forces, ensure humanitarian access, and permit an independent international mechanism to investigate abuses by all sides.
Renewed Burmese army operations against the Kachin Independence Army began in June in a contested area surrounding a Chinese-led hydropower dam, ending 17 years of ceasefire between the government and Kachin insurgents.
It is sad that Burma’s newly created National Human Rights Commission has not played an effective role in monitoring abuses in Kachin State. In February 2012, the commission’s chairman, Win Mra, said that the commission would not investigate allegations of abuses in the country’s ethnic armed conflict areas due to the government’s efforts to negotiate ceasefires.
Of the 75,000 Kachin civilians displaced since June, at least 45,000 have sought refuge in 30 camps for internally displaced persons in Kachin Independence Army-controlled territory along the Burma-China border. The Burmese government has only granted UN agencies access to this area once, in December. Even then, UN agencies were not able to visit several areas where tens of thousands of displaced persons reside.
The worsening situation in Kachin State contrasts starkly with hopeful human rights developments in lowland Burma in recent months, including the release of prominent political prisoners, a spate of legal reforms, and greater media freedom. In by-elections scheduled for April 1, the pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi will run for a seat in the national parliament.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a landmark visit to Myanmar in December 2011, praised the government over reforms including its dialogue with Suu Kyi and urged it to put a top priority on ethnic reconciliation.
NOW — Greater Voice calls on the Burmese government and ethnic armed groups to end violations of international human rights and humanitarian law during its conflicts or military operations. Greater Voice also demands that Burmese Government establish a mechanism immediately to provide prompt and adequate compensation for victims of abuses by its security forces.
See Also – Video – Burma Releases Political Prisoners: