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Open Letter to the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

By All Kachin Students and Youth Union, Kachin Centre, Kachin Development Networking Group, Kachin Environment Organization, Kachin National Organization, Kachin Women's Association – Thailand, Pan Kachin Development Society and Kachin News Group  •  November 29, 2011

U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

CC:
U.S. Embassy in Rangoon
110 University Ave.
Kamayut Township
Rangoon, Burma

November 29, 2011

Re: Armed Conflict and Human Rights Violations in Kachin State, Burma

Dear Madam Secretary of State,

We are writing to you today to bring your urgent attention to the situation of the civilian population in Kachin State in northern Burma. On 9 June, spurred on by the Kachin Independence Army’s (KIA) refusal to accept the regime’s proposal that all ethnic armed groups transform into Border Guard Forces, as well as the KIA’s strategic control of areas with lucrative Chinese hydropower projects, the Burma Army launched a full-scale attack on the KIA, breaking a 17-year-old ceasefire.

Since 9 June, the fighting has led an estimated 50,000 civilians to flee their homes, becoming Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in camps along the Kachin-China border, in both towns and jungle areas. Crowded living conditions, poor sanitation and hygiene, lack of clean water, and insufficient food and nutrition are causing increased rates of illness among the IDPs. With winter coming, they are now exposed to the cold weather without access to warm clothes or proper shelter. Moreover, they are trapped between the Burma Army and China’s border guards.

These IDPs fled their homes as a result of the outrageous human rights violations being perpetrated by the Burma Army against civilians in Kachin State. Our organizations receive reports and accounts from witnesses and survivors of these human rights violations on a daily basis.

Among the documented cases we have collected are instances in which the Burma Army is responsible for torture, arbitrary arrest, forced portering, extrajudicial killings, looting of property, and the burning of houses, schools and religious buildings. The use of child soldiers is also rampant. Moreover, there is evidence of the Burma Army using rape as a weapon of war. On 26 November, the Women’s League of Burma reported that during the 8-month long armed conflict against ethnic groups in Shan and Kachin States, Burma Army soldiers have raped 81 women and girls, of which 36 were killed. There is also evidence to suggest the possible use of chemical weapons by the Burma Army. These heinous crimes are proof that the Burma Army is deliberately targeting the Kachin civilian population.

The Burma Army is composed of 400,000 troops and is financed by a quarter of the budget of the national government. The Burma Army’s financial and human resources are much more significant than the 10,000 troops of the KIA. Yet despite these superior resources, it is clear that the Burma Army still views attacks on civilians as a legitimate tactic.

More recently, it is important to note that while government officials have sought to enter into peace talks with the KIA, the Burma Army continued to deploy additional troops in Kachin State.

Although the last ceasefire between the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) lasted for 17 years, it failed to create the political dialogue that the Kachin population was hoping for and thus never addressed the root causes of the ethnic conflict. It is crucial that future peace talks address the fundamental concerns of the Kachin people, including the regime’s monopoly of natural resources in Kachin State.

Ethnic Kachin civilians also suffer as a result of the regime’s construction of dams on Kachin State’s most important rivers. This construction leads to the confiscation of inherited land and houses, the destruction of the environment and results in an increased military presence. Similar consequences have resulted from mineral extraction in which regime-backed companies have entered Kachin State for mono-crop plantations, and gold and jade mining.

This week, thanks to your historic visit to Burma, you have a unique opportunity to call on the regime to end the atrocities being committed against the Kachin population. The regime has engaged in a series of charm offensives aimed at wining over the international community and the United States in particular, in an attempt to have sanctions lifted. However, these charm offensives have not resulted in positive change in Kachin State. Instead, numerous atrocities are being perpetrated today by President Thein Sein’s regime against the Kachin people in Burma. We would thus like to ask that during your visit to Burma you call on the regime to:

  • Immediately stop its offensives in Kachin areas and for Burma Army troops to leave the area and return to their original bases;
  • Declare a nationwide ceasefire agreement with all ethnic groups through an open and transparent process involving the presence of witnesses from the international community;
  • Immediately convene a second Panglong Conference in order to establish a genuine Federal Union that ethnic people have been calling for; and
  • Provide protection and allow access for domestic and cross-border humanitarian
    aid to civilians fleeing the armed conflict.

Moreover, we call on the United States to continue to gather support for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into the Burma Army’s grave human rights violations against ethnic civilians, including the possible use of chemical weapons against Kachin people, for the purposes of stopping these violations, truth-seeking and national reconciliation.
We thank you for your consideration of our concerns and recommendations. We are at your disposal should you have any questions or should you wish to schedule a meeting to discuss this matter.

Sincerely,

Mr. Naw San
General Secretary Coordinator
Tel: +66 84 811 9594
All Kachin Students and Youth Union
Email: aksyumaesot@gmail.com

Ms. Moon Nay Li
Coordinator
Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand
Tel: +66 85 625 1912
E-mail: kwat.coordinator@gmail.com

On behalf of:

  • All Kachin Students and Youth Union (AKSYU)
  • Kachin Centre
  • Kachin Development Networking Group
  • Kachin Environment Organization
  • Kachin National Organization
  • Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand
  • Pan Kachin Development Society
  • Kachin News Group
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This post is in: Crimes Against Humanity, Press Release

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