HRW Says Burmese Military Abusing Ethnic Civilians

Posted October 18th, 2011 at 3:05 am (UTC-5)
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Human Rights Watch is accusing Burmese soldiers of “serious abuses” against civilians in northern Kachin state, including enslavement and murder.

The Burmese military launched an offensive against the rebel Kachin Independence Army in June. Human Rights Watch says soldiers attacked and occupied numerous villages in Kachin state, confiscating residents' property and belongings.

The rights group also says the soldiers pressed Kachin civilians into forced labor and subjected some of them to harsh interrogation.

Human Rights Watch says the attacks have displaced 30,000 Kachin civilians who fled their homes to hide out for days in nearby mountains and jungles.

The group says it learned of the atrocities during a fact-finding mission to Kachin state in July and August.

Burmese military forces previously were accused of systematically raping 18 ethnic Kachin women at the start of the fighting. Among those making the accusation were several women U.S. senators and a group of female Nobel Peace Prize winners including Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Human Rights Watch says the abuses in Kachin State highlight the importance of establishing a special United Nations commission of to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in Burma.

The creation of a commission, first proposed by U.N. human rights investigator Tomas Quintana, has been supported by the United States, Canada, Australia and 12 European Union countries.

The United States has called for Burma to resolve the ethnic fighting in the north and take other steps before international sanctions can be lifted.