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9 June – 15 June: Three Years of Suffering for the Kachin People, How Much Longer?

June 17, 2014

9-june-2014-heinhtet-irrawaddyAs we pass the marking of the third year of the conflict in Kachin and northern Shan State between the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Burma Army, it is difficult not feel pessimistic. A report released by Fortify Rights, a non-profit human rights organization based in Southeast Asia, highlights the continuing torture of Kachin civilians by Burmese security forces, while Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT) expressed their concern at the increasing offensives on KIA positions. Peace talks have occurred sporadically in an attempt to resolves the conflict, but still, all we see is the continuing persecution of Kachin communities.

The Fortify Rights report, ‘Myanmar: End Wartime Torture in Kachin State and Northern Shan State’ demonstrates how torture, both physical and mental, has been systemically inflicted upon Kachin civilians thought to be associated with the KIA. Fortify Rights believes that this constitutes war crimes and crimes against humanity. The perpetrators include not just the Burma Army, but also military intelligence and the police force. Beatings during interrogation, cutting off blood circulation, deprivation of food, drink, and sleep, sexual assault, and stabbings among other methods were all documented. Mental torture was also used, such as forcing prisoners to dig graves and telling them it is their own, having to drink from pools of their own blood and being put in execution style positions. This report comes just a few months after the Women’s League of Burma released, ‘Same Patterns, Same Impunity’ that exposes the systematic use of rape and sexual assault as a weapon of war by the Burma Army in ethnic areas.

Not only is torture and sexual assault brutal and systematic, it is committed with complete impunity. Under the 2008 Constitution, a courts-martial system was established with the Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, Min Aung Hlaing, at the top of the decision-making pile, effectively preventing any soldier from appearing in a civilian court. Thus, incidents such as sexual assault of Kachin women, and extreme torture of suspected KIA sympathizers go unpunished. This severely damages any prospects of peace. As Amnesty International point out, “The continued fighting and reports of crimes under international law and human rights violations allegedly committed by the Myanmar Army raise serious questions about commitment to human rights reforms in the country and threaten ongoing efforts to negotiate a nationwide ceasefire.”

Furthermore, while human rights violations continue systematically and unpunished, the fighting itself is increasing. In a statement on 9 June 2014, KWAT draws attention to increase in offensives by the Burma Army in recent months in an attempt to “seize control of key trade routes and economic zones.” Inevitably such operations bring the destruction, displacement and persecution that Kachin people have been experiencing for the past three years.

The war has gone on for three years now. So have the abuses. Generations of ethnic people of Burma, including the Kachin, have experienced this. How much longer will the Kachin people have to endure such suffering at the hands of the Burma Army? Offensives need to stop, abuses needs to stop, impunity needs to stop. The international community needs to put more pressure on the Burma government to end this suffering of ethnic people of Burma. As Matthew Smith from Fortify Rights explains, “The international community needs to wake up and comprehend the severity of abuse being perpetrated against the Kachin people. Foreign governments should demand an end to these abuses and ensure survivors get the support they need. Governments and donors should increase financial, technical, and advocacy support for human rights defenders in the country.” Another year of this persecution simply cannot be allowed to happen.

News Highlights

The proposed Religious Conversion Law draws criticism from abroad including, the US State Department, as 81 organisations from Burma and elsewhere recommend scrapping the proposal, while Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, in her role as Chair of the Rule of Law Committee, meets human rights activists opposed to the proposed law

Constitutional Amendment Implementation Committee votes against making changes to Article 59(f), effectively barring Daw Aung San Suu Kyi from running as candidate in 2015, however, the parliamentarians must still vote on the amendment and make the final decision

Inside Burma

A motion to move to a proportional representation voting system receives support from the upper house of Parliament

Ministry of Information files a complaint with the Press Council after Eleven Media Group published an article accusing the ministry of misusing funds

Two outspoken Burmese critics of the government and military are blacklisted from the country, thus barring them from entering the country again

A Kachin village head is sentenced to 22 years in prison for allegedly planning a bomb attack, although his lawyer claims he was tortured

Twelve factory workers are arrested for their part in a demonstration calling for better working conditions


Five Burmese gang members involved in the trafficking of Burmese people to work in Thailand are arrested in Thailand

Burma and Bangladesh reach a nine-point agreement after recent border disputes


US to help with safety measures on the deadly Rangoon to Mandalay highway

Japanese development arm, Japan International Cooperation Agency, continues to reject accusations that it has breached its own environmental and social guidelines in the Thilawa SEZ project

UNICEF rejects allegations that it apologized for using the term ‘Rohingya’

UN Refugee Agency estimates over 86,000 people, mostly Muslim Rohingya’s, have left Burma on boats since June 2012


Burma Needs Tolerance to Reach its Potential
By Charles Bo
The Washington Post

Global Summit to Shine Spotlight on Sexual Violence
By Tin Tin Nyo
The Myanmar Times

Signing of Declaration Doesn’t Mean End of Sexual Violence in Burma
By Zoya Phan
The Huffington Post

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Women delegates at global summit use social media campaign to raise awareness

Karen community based organizations demand greater transparency from the Karen National Union regarding peace talks with the government

Statements and Press Releases

Religious Conversion Law Threatens Religious Freedom in Burma/Myanmar
By 81 Organizations from Civil Society Worldwide

Myanmar: Three Years on, Conflict Continues in Kachin State
By Amnesty International

Statement by the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand on the Third Anniversary of the Renewed Conflict in Kachin State
By Kachin Women’s Association Thailand

Four years on, no clear answers on Kaladan Project
By The Kaladan Movement

အမ်ဴိးသားဒီမိုကေရစီအဖြဲ႔ခ်ဳပ္၏ ပထမအႀကိမ္ဗဟိုေကာ္မတီ တတိယအႀကိမ္ပုံမွန္အစည္းအေ၀း ဆုံးျဖတ္ခ်က္
By National League for Democracy

USCIRF Deeply Concerned by Draft “Religious Conversion Law” in Burma
By United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

Women of Burma Attend Global Summit To End Sexual Violence In Conflict
By Women’s League of Burma

This post is in: Weekly Highlights