Women's call for curtailing Army linked to abuses
Commenting on the statement issued by the Women's League of Burma on Monday, 23 February, the group's secretary general told S.H.A.N. yesterday the withdrawal of Burma Army troops from non-Burman states was essential because it would prevent them from further abuses on the local populace.
"A nationwide ceasefire alone would mean nothing if the Army is still allowed to prey on the people including women," Nang Hseng Noung said, in reply to S.H.A.N.'s question. "The only thing that could guarantee their safety is its departure from the ethnic areas."
The WLB statement, issued following its Third Presidium Board meeting, 18-22 February, had called for a nationwide ceasefire, a stop to the increased militarization process and withdrawal of troops from ethnic states, an end to systematic violations of human rights and the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners, among others.
"It's also time the military slimmed itself down, because its excesses are not confined only to the non-Burman territories", she continued.
The Oslo-based Democratic Voice of Burma reported on 23 February how the Defense Industries #17 in Central Burma's Magwe Division, having confiscated lands in the area, had been forcing the people to pay in kind as rent, to do forced labor and submit themselves all forms of humiliations. "Moreover, anyone who wishes to move out of the area must pay 5,000 kyat each before he or she is allowed to leave," said DVB.
Burma's former masters, the British, had ruled the country with 15 infantry battalions, including 2 in Shan State. After Independence, the number of the Burma Army, facing multi-armed opposition movements particularly the Beijing-backed Communist Party of Burma, rose to 168 in 1988, including 40 plus in Shan State. However, since the fall of the CPB in 1989 and the rapprochement with China followed by ceasefire pacts with most armed groups, the Army has grown more than 700 infantry battalions last year, including 120 plus in Shan State.
Hseng Noung also warns all parties concerned that the WLB would not stay idle if the UN Security Council Resolution #1325, adopted on 31 October 2001, is ignored. The 18-point declaration had urged UN member countries to protect women during wartime and allow for the participation of women in conflict resolutions.
"Her claim is tantamount to a demand for a quadripartite dialogue more than a tripartite dialogue as normally called for by other opposition movements," commented a male Shan exile, not discourteously.
The Tripartite Dialogue proposal, adopted by the UN but yet to be accepted by Rangoon, will include the military, the opposition political parties and the non-Burman ethnic nationalities.