UPDATE: On Friday the Burma army announced it would cease attacks on Kachin rebels, but the ceasefire did not hold and fighting resumed almost immediately.
A humanitarian crisis continues to unfold in Kachin State, northern Burma. Over the past weeks, the ruling Burma army has escalated its offensive in the conflict against the ethnic minority rebels of the Kachin Independence Army. Air strikes and heavy artillery shelling have injured and killed civilians throughout the Kachin territory.
Since June 2011, thousands of people in Kachin State have been killed and 100,000 displaced. Less frequently reported is the regime’s systemic use of sexual violence as a weapon of war against women, children and men in ethnic states. There are continued civilian reports of abduction, gang rape, sexual torture, and unlawful execution by soldiers.
Moon Nay Li, coordinator at Women’s League of Burma, explained that the rampant sexual violence in Kachin State will only get worse: “Now that the fighting has increased, the government troops will use this pretext to continue raping, torturing and killing.”
Calling for an immediate end to the fighting, Nobel Peace Laureate and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi said, “We will only be able to avoid such conflicts if we begin to practice a culture of negotiation.” Daw Suu Kyi expressed her willingness to support peace negotiations in Kachin State if the government approves it. She also believes civilians and the media must play a role in terminating the conflict; it will require mutual respect and trust, as well as an understanding of the goals of ethnic people.
To put an end to these crimes in Kachin State – many of which are considered crimes against humanity and war crimes – peace processes will need to include the concerns of Kachin women and ethnic people.
Burma steps up military offensive against Kachin rebels, The Guardian, 14 January 2013.
As War Intensifies, Tough Times for Kachin Women, The Irrawaddy, 1 January 2013.
Untold Miseries: Wartime Abuses and Forced Displacement in Burma’s Kachin State, Human Rights Watch, 20 March 2012.
Conflict Profiles: Burma, Women Under Siege Project, 17 December 2012.
Ongoing Impunity: Continued Burma Army atrocities against the Kachin people, Kachin Women’s Association Thailand, June 2012.
Nobel Laureates release open letter to Obama, Thein Sein, Nobel Women’s Initiative, 18 November 2012.
Read this statement from Women’s League of Burma and urge your government to take part in preventing more atrocities from being committed in Kachin State.