Rape, torture plague Myanmar's Kachin conflict: rights group

Tue Mar 20, 2012 12:55am EDT

Related Topics

(Reuters) - Troops in Myanmar have murdered, tortured and raped civilians since fighting with separatists flared up around nine months ago in northern Kachin State, leading to the displacement of 75,000 people, a rights group said on Tuesday.

Government soldiers had blocked humanitarian aid and attacked innocent people with light and heavy weapons, burning down entire villages, abducting women and forcing children as young as 14 to become porters, according to a report from Human Rights Watch (HRW).

After interviewing more than 100 villagers, victims and army deserters in refugee camps in Kachin and China's Yunnan province, HRW called on Myanmar's government to allow access to aid workers and investigate alleged abuses.

HRW, based in New York, also accused the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) of exacerbating the conflict in the former Burma by using child soldiers and anti-personnel mines and called for international involvement to halt the atrocities.

"The Burmese army is committing unchecked abuses in Kachin State while the government blocks humanitarian aid to those most in need," said Elaine Pearson, HRW's deputy Asia director.

"Both the army and Kachin rebels need to act to prevent a bad situation for civilians from getting even worse.

"Concerned governments should urgently support an independent international mechanism to investigate abuses by all sides to the conflict."

Myanmar's government wants to reach a ceasefire in Kachin as part of moves to end all its decades-old conflicts with separatist armies.

Western countries have made a successful peace process one of their main demands for lifting trade sanctions. Diplomats say the Kachin conflict, which flared up in the middle of 2011 after a 17-year truce, is one of the biggest tests for the year-old civilian government's reform effort.

Talks between the KIA and government peace negotiators have been held on seven occasions since President Thein Sein issued a call for dialogue in August to find "everlasting peace", but they have been fruitless and the KIA says the fighting has reached "total annihilation stage".

Thein Sein has ordered the military not to attack the KIA and use only defensive measures.

Thousands of refugees have crossed into China to escape the violence. Some in camps along the border told Reuters last month that soldiers were raping and killing.

China told a visiting official from Myanmar in February that maintaining peace and stability in the Kachin border region was in the interests of both countries.

The HRW report, compiled after two visits to nine camps in Kachin States and Yunnan, featured accounts of civilians on the front line who were tortured, forced into labor or were witnesses to the repeated rape of women.

"When we ran, the soldiers shot at us," one woman was quoted as saying. "We were really afraid. We just ran and hid."

(Reporting by Martin Petty in Bangkok; Editing by Alan Raybould)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (2)
FatherJames wrote:
…This goes back to WWII… The tribal peoples helped the British and the American OSS against the Japanese. But when the war over, we gave Burma to the collaborators who had aided the Japanese. Since then they have tried to wipe out the tribal groups.

…Britain and the U.S. have “tut-tutted” but done almost nothing. To buy weapons to avoid being wiped off the face of the earth… only source of funds… unfortunately opium and other drugs…
…Apache scouts regularly enlisted in the U.S. Army were rewarded for helping capture Geronimo by being imprisoned with him. The hill peoples of Laos were promised that we would never abandon them… We did…

…We owe a debt to the Kurds who have been the only rational players in Iraq… and aided us massively in our invasion. They would be wise to ignore any promises that we have made…

…Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore once said, “It is dangerous to be an enemy of the United States… Sometimes it is more dangerous to be a friend…”

Mar 20, 2012 2:11am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Brang wrote:
Sanctions must not be lifted as long as these brutal regime is committing inhuman acts against ethnic minorities. The western governments should re-consider taking back their support and doing business with the Burmese government. I know what’s happening inside my country and it made me sad that these stories aren’t being covered in news as much as recent window dressing changes in Burma.

Mar 20, 2012 8:09am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus