International Human Rights and Advocacy Groups Mark the Third Anniversary of Kachin Conflict with Call for Peace and Investigation into “War Crimes”

Burma focused international human rights advocacy organisations, youth groups and unions, have marked the third anniversary of the conflict in Kachin State by urging the Burma’s government to commit to peace.

The Kachin State conflict, which first erupted, following a Burma Army offensive against the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) in June 2011, shattered a 17-year ceasefire and has so far displaced more than 100,000 civilians in Kachin State and neighboring Shan State.

The Burma Army attack came after the KIA refused to transform into a government controlled Border Guard Force, and submit to the control of the Burma Army as required by the 2008 Constitution, drafted by the previous military regime.

The coalition of organisations, 55 in total, said that people displaced by the conflict were currently in “desperate need” of shelter, medical attention and food.

The Kachin Peace Talk Creation Group, one of the groups represented, said that the war had destroyed thousands of lives in Kachin State. “The impact of the war this time has been enormous. Many have lost land, plantations, livelihood. Those people can no longer support their children. People are living in the middle of nowhere, hopeless, desperate, suffering…people are hopeless and desperately need help.”

The international coalition condemned the Burma Army for committing human rights abuses in conflict areas. “Since breaking the ceasefire the Burma Army and the government of Burma have committed myriad human rights violations with absolute impunity. Among the more heinous abuses are credible allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity, which merit immediate investigation,” the coalition said.

The coalition listed the human rights abuses it alleged that the Burma Army had committed. “These criminal acts include grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions such as the deliberate targeting of civilians by military forces, rape and other forms of sexual violence, extrajudicial executions, arbitrary detention, torture, and restrictions on the provision of humanitarian assistance. Such violations could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” the coalition said.

The statement came as the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT), a community based human rights watchdog, said that it had continued to document cases of rape and torture by Burma Army until as recently as last month.

“We cannot be confident in the peace talks while the Army is still attacking our Kachin people and perpetrating human rights abuses,” Jessica Nhkum, Joint General Secretary of KWAT, said in an interview with Karen News.

Amnesty International also expressed concern in a media statement regarding the situation for Kachin internally displaced people. “The humanitarian situation of IDPs remains grave, and there are ongoing concerns about conditions in IDP camps, including with regard to access to shelter, clean water and sanitation.”

The United Nations Human Rights Council’s outgoing Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Mr Tomas Quintana, highlighted the impunity of the Burma Army in one of his last official addresses, saying there was “no progress in tackling the impunity under which the military forces currently operate”.

In recent months several rounds of peace talks between the Burma Government and the KIO have taken place but have been jeopardize by ongoing attacks from the Burma Army. The coalition noted that on 10 April 2014, Burma Army soldiers attacked the Lagat Yang camp for internally displaced peoples, forcing IDPs to flee and that since the beginning of May, fighting had continued in Mungbaw, resulting in at least 500 IDPs seeking shelter in the town of Muse.

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