Kachin Conflict: Burma Army Accused Of Raping Villagers

In recent months and as peace negotiations with the government continue, human rights abuses including rape and arbitrary killings at the hands of the Burma Army continue against Kachin people, according to community-based organisations and frontline backpack medics.

The conflict between the Kachin Independence Army and Burma’s Army that started in June 2011 has left over 350 villages in trouble, some abandoned completely, and over 100,000 civilians displaced.

Community based groups claim that civilians are most at risk of human rights abuses, and said cases continue to mount that document abuses perpetrated by government forces in particular.

Karen News is led to understand from a Free Burma Rangers report, released on November 7th that Burma Army soldiers’ gang-raped two women in two separate incidents, one of them a 15 year-old girl. Villagers and aid groups also claim that the Burma Army has also been pillaging villages and using heavy artillery as the Kachin conflict moves closer to a third straight year of fighting.

On Wednesday 30 October 2013, Sumlut Roi Ja, a 15-year-old girl from Lu Htawng Village in Kachin State, was gang-raped by several Burma Army soldiers.

Free Burma Rangers (FBR) said that the attackers were “Captain Thet Hpyo Aung and two soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 116. Lieutenant Colonel Min Kyin San commands LIB 116, a mobile battalion under the Sagaing-based 33rd Light Infantry Division, which is commanded by Colonel Myit Maw.”

FBR are a frontline humanitarian group that work providing medical assistance throughout Burma. They have an on the ground presence in Kachin State.

FBR said in its statement that on 2 September 2013, 200 Burma Army soldiers moved into Nhka Ga village, forcing KIA troops stationed there to retreat. As they occupied the village, the Burma Army tortured and killed two villagers. Burma Army soldiers raped a 29-year-old woman and mother of one child, Nhtung Hkai Nang Htu, right in front of her husband as a means of humiliation. The village’s reverend and ten other villagers were also arbitrarily arrested and tortured after being questioned by Burma Army units.

The atrocities took place a month either side of peace talks held between the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and Burma’s government in Myitkyina on October 8th.

Jessica Nhkum the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand joint secretary said the military is using the peace talks as a tactic to reinforce its offensive positions. “Between each round of peace talks, the Burmese government is seizing new strategic sites and expanding its military into Kachin areas.”

Since the renewal of conflict between the Kachin Independence Army and the Burma’s Army on June 9, 2011, there have been three official peace talks and at least ten unofficial peace talks between the two sides. “How can we believe that this process will lead to peace?” Jessica Nhkum added.

Attacks continue to occur with the Burma Army reportedly firing large calibre 60mm mortar shells that day. Following the attacks, eight male villagers were arbitrarily arrested. According to the latest reports from sources on the ground, the men are still in custody and have not yet been returned home.

Between 9 October and 31 October at least six clashes took place in Kachin State. The Burma Army shelled two villages, resulting in three civilian casualties, two of which were children. Over the same time period, more than 700 civilians were temporarily detained in a church.

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