Testimony Burma Army Offensives Using Kachin Civilians as Human Shields and Mine Sweepers

The Kachin Woman’s Association Thailand issued a statement on May 15, 2018 contradicting claims made by Burma Army commanders that recent offensives against the Kachin Independence Army did not target civilians.

The statement said KWAT interviews with displaced people had “revealed in April 2018 Burma Army troops committed war crimes against villagers in three townships in Kachin State: Hpakant, Danai and Injangyang.”

KWAT allege the Burma Army crimes include, “blocking IDPs from accessing refuge; using IDPs as human shields and minesweepers; indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombing of civilian areas; looting and destruction of property.”

Kwat said civilians “rescued from Lai Nawng Khu, Hpakant township, on May 6 and 7, have given terrifying accounts of how 152 people, including 64 children, were blocked when fleeing through the jungle by Burma Army troops of LIB 424, who then used them as human shields and minesweepers.”

KWAT reported the villagers were forced to “trek through the jungle single file, interspersed with Burmese troops, causing a villager in front to be injured by a land mine. After being forced to stay near a military base for four days, they were forced back to their village, where they camped in the village church for 17 days, while the troops stayed in their homes, looting their food and property, and wearing villagers’ clothes to ward off KIA attacks. Before being released, the IDPs were told by the Burma Army not to stay in IDP camps.”

KWAT estimated “2,000 civilians from in and around Awng Lawt village, Danai township, starting fleeing to the jungle on April 11, after 105 mm shells were fired indiscriminately from the Danai Regional Operations Command (20 kilometers to the west) and two jets dropped bombs on the area. Shells killed two civilians and injured an elderly farmer. As hundreds of troops of Battalions 86, 238, 318 and 101 seized the area, IDPs tried to trek to safety through the dense jungle. Several groups of IDPs have been rescued, some after a month in hiding, but about 130 – mostly elderly and disabled – remain trapped in the jungle.”

KWAT pointed out that in “Injangyang township, where hundreds of Burma Army reinforcements from ID 33 and 88 arrived on April 24, and launched attacks on April 26, about 600 IDPs were blocked from fleeing south to Myitkyina on April 27. They were forced to take shelter in churches in Injangyang town. On May 14, community leaders were still negotiating with the Burma Army for safe passage out of the area.”

KWAT demanded the Burma Army stop its “offensives in all ethnic areas, and stop committing war crimes against civilians, so that inclusive political dialogue can begin towards democratic federal reform.”

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