Burma Army accused of atrocities in Shan State offensive

Burma’s military accused of mass human rights abuses in Shan State as President Thein Sien is awarded peace prize and the EU economic sanctions.

The Shan Human Rights Foundation has expressed grave concern over new widespread abuses being committed by the Burma Army in recent weeks. Despite ongoing peace talks with the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), Burma’s military has launched a new wave of attacks in Tangyan, northern Shan State, leading to civilian casualties.

Local sources told Karen News that the latest attacks began on April 15, during the annual New Year Water Festival, when Burmese troops launched new offensives in civilian areas.

Mortar shells landed in two villages, the SHRF reported, injuring two children, and damaging a school and several houses. Burma Army patrols are accused of detaining and beating civilians in at least nine villages, causing serious injury. This included children, who were allegedly beaten with rifle butts.

Karen News is led to understand that a group of about fifty young men and women travelling to celebrate the Water Festival were apprehended by Burma Army soldiers, and forced to walk in front and behind them as human shields, to ward off attacks by Shan troops.

As a result of these attacks, the SHRF estimated that nearly 2,000 villagers fled to Tangyan, where they are taking refuge in temples and in the homes of relatives.

“The Burma Army attacks are in direct contravention of their ceasefire with the SSA-N, and call into question the viability of the ongoing peace process between the Burmese government and the ethnic armed groups.” The SHRF said in a media statement.

If accurate, the reports undermine the decision by the EU to lift a raft of economic sanctions on the impoverished country this week. Regional analysts have warned that the lifting of sanctions has the potential to line the pockets of ‘cronies’ aligned to the military.

Meanwhile, the International Crisis Group (ICG) is set to grant Burmese President Thein Sein its annual ‘In Pursuit of Peace’ award at a prestigious gala dinner in New York on Monday in recognition of the democratic reforms and peace efforts that he has introduced, it was reported in the regional media.

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