Free Burma Rangers, an organisation delivering humanitarian assistance to conflict affected areas, stated that clashes between the Burma Army and ethnic armed groups continued into October with reports of government forces resorting to looting, torture and arbitrary detention.
“There are claims that civilians are being conscripted into Burma militia training; Burma Army troops make a regular practice of establishing checkpoints to monitor civilian movements, especially along rivers, railroads and bridges and the Burma Army frequently pressures civilians into paying bribes at these check points.” The FBR statement, released October 27, said.
FBR said that here had been at least 19-armed clashes in August and September alone.
FBR condemned the ongoing military activity noting that UN humanitarian workers were also present in Kachin State and claimed that the attacks jeopardized the ongoing peace talks between the Kachin Independent Organisation (KIO) and the government.
FBR said they had documented the arbitrary detention and torture of a 50 year-old Kachin man.
“At 10:00 on 12 August, Mr. Yaw Ying, a 50-year-old man from Hkum Tsai Village, was arrested and tortured by Burma Army troops under 66th Army Division command while they were in Kap Maw Village. Afterwards, soldiers sent him to Nam Ya hospital, which is located in Hpakant Township in KIA 2nd Brigade territory.” FBR said, though they did not detail the method of torture or what injuries the man suffered.
FBR also collected evidence of the Burma Army looting villager’s homes, extorting six to ten thousand Kyat (between 6 and 10 $USD) from cattle farmers to use the main roads, and forcing villagers to provide rations for soldiers.
The Kachin conflict started with a Burma Army offensive on June 9, 2011, breaking a 17-year ceasefire between the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and its armed wing the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), and the Burmese government.
In figures provided to Karen News, the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand outlined that at least 78,225 civilians were displaced by the conflict in Kachin State alone and were living in 67 camps in KIO controlled territory.
Human rights organisations have documented gross humanitarian abuses taking place, usually at the hands of government forces.
A 2014 report by Fortify Rights documented 78 first hand accounts of the government committing “war crimes” in Kachin State, including the torture and abuse of civilians by the Burma Army, Military Intelligence and the Police, from June 2011 to April of this year.
Some of those interviewed for the report claimed they had been beaten with bamboo sticks, metal rods and rifles. In one case, a man was shot in the head during an escape attempt, though he survived.
The clashes in Kachin and Shan state come as renewed fighting broke out in Karen State last month, between the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army and government forces – leading regional analysts and community leaders expressing concerns over the feasibility of a nationwide peace settlement.