Last year, the 17-year ceasefire between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) broke down. Since then, an estimated 75,000
people have been displaced by the fighting and continue to face a humanitarian
crisis with virtually no access to assistance from local or international organizations. Women are especially suffering, used as porters, sex slaves, and subject to gang-rape and arbitrary killings. In the past year, Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand (KWAT) has documented the rape or sexual assault of at least 43 women and girls, of whom 21 were killed.
“There is are eyewitnesses who reported that two young women who had been forcibly conscripted as porters from the Kachin capital of Myitkyina, and ended up being gang-raped nightly for several weeks as they accompanied a military patrol of several hundred troops” (Ongoing Impunity, 4).
Race for the Resources
Conflict has worsened largely because Kachin areas are rich in natural resources. Unfortunately, foreign corporations are continuing to push ahead with their large-scale resource extraction projects, prompting environmental destruction and the increasing presence of Burmese troops to “monitor” the new developments.
“China Power Investment is proceeding with its plan to build seven mega dams […], in spite of President Thein Sein’s announcement that the Myitsone Dam would be suspended. At the same time, China National Petroleum Corporation is continuing to build giant pipelines across northern Shan State to transport oil and gas from the Arakan coast to Yunnan” (Ongoing Impunity, 3).
Ceasefire? What ceasefire?
The Burmese army is still growing in numbers, with frequent troop activity interfering with regular civilian routines. For example, they continue to lay landmines on roads and around villages, making civilians fearful and reluctant to leave their communities, even to tend to their fields.
On 8 May the Northern Regional Military Commander of the Burma Army, Brigadier-General Zeyar Aung, stated that his troops would “wipe out” the KIA, hardly a position conducive to reaching a ceasefire agreement that will address the legitimate political concerns of the Kachin people.
Religion versus the regime
The Burmese government has often prevented the Kachin from practicing their religion (predominantly Christianity). This includes the destruction of churches, attacks on pastors and other religious leaders, and efforts to intimidate worshipers (Ongoing Impunity, 8).
What can be done?
Although UN Sec. Gen. Ban Ki Moon and Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana’s statements have indicated that Kachin state is one of the worst affected regions in terms of armed conflict, the international community still has not openly denounced and acted upon incidents of human rights abuse (Ongoing Impunity, 2). KWAT wants to “maintain pressure on the Burmese government to immediately implement a nationwide ceasefire, pull back Burma Army troops from ethnic areas and start dialogue with the United Nationalities Federal Council towards a process of genuine political reform” (Ongoing Impunity, 2). At the end of the report, KWAT details recommended actions for different parties involved in Burma, including Asociation of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Chinese government.
Moon Nay Li, Coordinator, Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand: +66856251912 or