Armed Groups Must be Held to Account in Latest Fighting, says Karen Human Rights Group

The Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG), an independent community based human rights organisation, has called for all armed sides in Burma to hold members of their armed forces to account if they have perpetrated abuses, including any abusive actions taken in the latest fighting.

The KHRG said that the DKBA and Burmese government forces involved in the recent fighting in Karen State should be held accountable under international law if they were found to have committed human rights abuses, such as indiscriminate shelling in civilian areas.

“Regarding the recent fighting, any armed group that committed indiscriminate attacks which killed or injured civilians should take responsibility according to national and international law,” KHRG said in an interview with Karen News, adding, “Whenever fighting happens between armed groups, villagers have to live in fear and their rights are abused.”

KHRG said that civilians were the ones suffering in the current fighting. “According to recent media reports, during the recent fighting between DKBA on one side and the Burma Army and Border Guard Force on the other, civilians have suffered from displacement, restrictions on their freedom of movement, and civilians including children were injured and died from apparently indiscriminate firing of weapons by armed actors,” KHRG said referring to a term for the Burma Army.

On October 11, four civilians were killed and nine badly injured when an artillery shell landed nearby a shop where they were having lunch on the Kawkareik-Myawaddy road. One of those killed was an 11 year-old boy, while two of those injured were also children. It is still not known which side fired the shell.

Salween Watch, a community based organisation, said that at least 260 villagers had fled into Thailand because of the fighting following October 10. The number of villagers displaced internally is not known, but is probably much greater than those who fled into Thailand.

KHRG noted that soldiers were also targets of killings, pointing out the murder of Saw Ta Noh, a private in the Karen National Liberation Army’s (KNLA) 6th Brigade, whose body was found, with throat slit, washed up on the banks of the Moei River on September 21. Saw Ta Noh was last seen alive on September 16, when soldiers from the government Border Guard Force Battalion #1022 arrested him at a checkpoint.

BGF militia, under the control of the government, were arrested in connection with the killing on September 22, the case against the five BGF soldiers is still ongoing.

The KHRG maintained that the latest fighting highlighted that all armed groups must be held to account for their actions, pointing out that it had continued to document killings in spite of the 2012 ceasefire.

“On June 25th 2012, in Thaton District, a 52-year-old man was tortured and killed by soldiers from BGF Battalion #1014, after he was accused of being a Karen National Union (KNU) spy. In Hpa-an District, a 16-year-old boy was killed on March 11th 2013, and a 62-year-old grandmother was killed on March 27th 2013, both by soldiers of BGF Battalion #1016, because they had publicly discussed the BGF’s involvement in drug related issues. On June 11th 2013, also in Hpa-an District, an entire family of four was murdered by troops under the orders of Commander Kya Aye of BGF Battalion #1015, after the family had been accused of practicing witchcraft,” KHRG said.

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