A Thai based advocacy group, representing ethnic Kachin women, has issued a statement condemning the latest military offensives by the Burma Army in Kachin State, that threatens the lives of “tens of thousands of civilians.”
The Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT) said it abhorred the latest violence in Kachin State.
Government soldiers continued to attack Kachin Independence Army positions with artillery throughout November, with the latest confirmed attack occurring on the 23rd.
KWAT said the Burma Army attacks endangered the lives of civilians, as artillery was continuing to hit civilian areas. The shelling continued despite the peace talks between the Government and the KIA’s political leadership in the Kachin Independence Organisation.
The latest wave of violence saw 23 cadets from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) killed in an artillery attack on the Army’s Military Academy, in one of the deadliest single incidents of the war, now in its third year.
A report by the BBC noted that it was unlikely the shell was fired at the academy in error, in spite of government claims to the contrary.
Jessica Nhkum, from KWAT, said that the international government’s were not doing enough to pressure the government to stop its offensives in ethnic areas.
“[The] international community should stop economic engagement with the Burmese government until there is a withdrawal of troops from ethnic areas and a genuine political solution, “ she said in an interview with Karen News. “There needs to be more support directly to the community based organisations all over Burma especially in ethnic areas which are hard to reach.”
KWAT said it had documented the evidence that government soldiers shelled areas near camps housing civilians displaced by the conflict three days after the deadly incident at the KIA military academy. KWAt said six shells fired from the government positions landed near Nhkawng Pa IDP camp, which houses 1,616 IDPs, though no one was injured.
Again, on November 23, government soldiers fired eight shells near Laiza, a city of 20,000 people. One of the shells landed within 50metres of a displaced peoples’ camp housing more than 2,000 people near the Chinese border, KWAT said.
Shirley Seng, a KWAT senior official, said the latest shelling undermined peace talks between the government and the ethnic armed groups. “Why is the Burma Army renewing its attacks at this critical time of nationwide ceasefire negotiations? Do they want to sabotage the peace process?”
A report released by human rights watchdog Fortify Rights in June this year documented widespread human rights abuses committed by government forces in Kachin State, including torture, killings, sexual violence and abductions.
The Kachin State conflict first erupted following a Burma Army offensive against the KIO in June 2011, shattering a 17-year ceasefire, and continues to this day.