The Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT) made it clear in a press conference at Chiang Mai University Friday that the wait and see approach to evolving problems in Burma’s ethnic territories by the international community and the U.N. have not been sufficient. Explaining that widespread human rights abuses in the Kachin State of Burma have increased in frequency since fighting began to flare in June, KWAT members offered recommendations for progress to the governments of Burma and China, as well as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the international community as a whole.
According to the KWAT’s accompanying press release Friday, “In its new war against Kachin resistance forces, Burma’s regime has deliberately targeted civilians with killings, torture and sexual violence, displacing over 25,000 people during the past four months.”
Sexual violence has been used in many reported cases, with eighteen separate incidents in eleven different townships where 34 women had been raped by government troops. According to the KWAT, at least one Kachin resident shared the belief that the rapes and sexual assaults have been part of orders to Burmese government troops.
According to sources within Burma, aid from the U.N. has proven difficult to arrange. With the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) office based in Yangon needing permission from the government to provide aid and similar requirements from potential Chinese U.N. aid, citizens of the Kachin state continue to suffer from what the KWAT believes are war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Besides the systematic rapes that have occurred, murders, torture and disappearances at the hands of government forces have also been commonplace.
The current armed conflict between Kachin Independence Army forces and government troops began with a Burmese army offensive on June 9th. The attack, which broke a ceasefire agreement in place since 1994, was brought on by the KIA’s resistance to the government’s demands that each armed resistance group become a Burma Army-run Border Guard Force. The KIA’s control of land that is valuable because of rich natural resources and sites for Chinese dam projects has also been a point of contention.
With the recent cancellation of the highly disputed Myitsone Dam, a $3.6 billion USD Chinese state run business venture, the international community has applauded possible progress in the country. The KWAT, however, maintains that problems like the ethnic conflicts in the Kachin state have been pushed aside from public view by the news of the dam project’s cancellation.
“All of the attention has been put on the dam”, said KWAT spokesperson Shirley Seng, widow of the KIA founder Gen Zau Seng, in Chiang Mai. According to an October 7th article by The Irrawady, the United States’ Obama administration praised the Burmese regime Thursday for perceived progress and reformist attitude.