Report: Burmese Army Continues Abuses in Kachin State

Posted March 20th, 2012 at 12:35 am (UTC-5)
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Human Rights Watch says Burmese military forces have committed numerous human rights violations in Kachin State, a year after a new civilian government took power from the long-standing military junta.

The U.S.-based advocacy group released a lengthy report Tuesday highlighting the abuses in the remote northern state, near the border with China. A 17 year ceasefire ended when fighting renewed between the Burmese military and Kachin rebel forces, last June.

HRW says Burmese military forces carried out unlawful killings on Kachin villagers, attacked Kachin villages and fired on civilians, subjected them to torture and forced labor, raped women, and forced children as young as 14 years old into their ranks.

As many as 75,000 ethnic Kachin villagers have been displaced since fighting broke out between the military and the Kachin Independence Army. Human Rights Watch says the Burmese government has blocked humanitarian aid from reaching the camps where the survivors have sought refuge from the fighting. Relief agencies from the United Nations were granted access last December, but they were not able to visit areas where tens of thousands of displaced people reside.

The group says it learned of the atrocities after visits to nine displaced persons camps and interviews with more than 100 people.

Burmese President Thein Sein says he has instructed the military not to engage in any fighting with the Kachin rebels, except in self-defense.

Many international governments have demanded an end to the fighting before they lift economic sanctions against Burma.

The fighting in Kachin State sharply contrasts with the pace of reforms undertaken by the military-backed civilian government, which replaced the long-standing military junta. It has has eased restrictions on the media, released hundreds of political prisoners and engaged in dialogue with democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The Nobel Peace Prize winner is running for an open parliament seat in a by-election set for April First.