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The Burmese army continues to step up abuses in northern Kachin state, including raping, killing and torturing villagers, despite signing a tentative ceasefire with ethnic rebels, activists say.
According to new research by the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT), government troops raided Nhka Ga village, near Putao, in northern Kachin, on 16 September, killing three men, torturing 10 others and raping a young mother.
The attack was “directly linked” to securing control of a region that is rich in natural resources including timber and minerals, says the group. Nhka Ga village lies along a new China-built road leading to an area slated for development by billionaire crony Tay Za.
The allegations follow weeks of fighting in southern Kachin and northern Shan state. Violence flared in Mansi township in Bhamo less than a week after rebel and government negotiators reached a fresh peace deal in Myitkyina, where they agreed to reduce fighting.
The Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) blamed government forces for provoking the hostilities, which claimed the life of a child and displaced over 1,000 villagers.
KWAT claims that around 400 villagers were also detained in a village church, while a 76-year-old woman was killed. The fighting is taking place along the strategic Kaihtik-Bhamo road.
“Between each round of peace talks, the Burmese government is seizing new strategic sites and expanding its military into Kachin areas,” said Jessica Nhkum, KWAT joint secretary. “How can we believe that this process will lead to peace?”
According to a report by the Kachin News Group, rebels were forced to abandon another outpost in Kyaukme township in Shan state on Wednesday following an offensive from the Burmese army.
The Kachin Independence Army – the KIO’s armed wing – says the fighting broke out when government troops attacked the post using heavy artillery.
Armed ethnic groups are currently meeting at the KIO’s headquarters in Laiza to discuss a government proposal to sign a nationwide ceasefire in November. The KIO is the only major armed group that has not signed a formal ceasefire with the government and has not yet indicated whether they will participate in a nationwide agreement.
The KIO, which has been fighting the government for greater autonomy and ethnic rights since a 17-year ceasefire broke down in June 2011, has repeatedly called for political dialogue as a precursor to peace. The rebels also want government forces to withdraw it troops from their territories.
President Thein Sein has received international acclaim for his efforts to resolve decades of civil conflicts in the former military dictatorship, securing an end to years of crippling economic sanctions against Burma.
Last week the UN expressed “serious concern” for the 100,000 civilians who have been ripped from their homes during the conflict.