War Crimes Continue Unabated in Kachin State. Where is the Outcry?

On December 23, 2016, Kachinland News reported that a mass grave containing the remains of 18 Mung Lung villagers, including a two year old boy, had been discovered three days earlier in a forest near Mung Lung Nam Hkye Ho village in Munggu area of Northern Shan State, Burma.

Their bodies had been partially burned before being buried. The 18 villagers had remained in Mung Lung while all others fled, saying that they were simple civilians with nothing to do with the war and that the Burma Army would not harm them. Yet, on November 28, 2016, the 18 villagers were detained by Burma Army soldiers under 88th and 99th Light Infantry divisions – units notorious for their brutality and suspected involvement in war crimes.

It was just over a year ago the international community lauded Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy’s (NLD) landslide victory in Myanmar’s (Burma) national election.  The NLD largely swept to power on promises Aung San Suu Kyi made to the millions of ethnic people in Burma who make up 40% of the population, pledges that she and the NLD would make their lives better.  Today, the ethnic people of Kachin and Shan States in northern Burma are still trying to survive ongoing atrocities, brutality and war crimes perpetuated by the Myanmar Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) and central government on a daily basis.

With Aung San Suu Kyi as the defacto leader (Burma’s 2008 constitution forbids her the presidency), Washington’s Obama administration lifted almost all the final sanctions plaguing Burma. These included many penalties against high ranking generals and their business associates who were previously blacklisted by the US for strong suspicions of war crimes and vast corruption practices which have impoverished a high percentage of the people and crippled Burma’s infrastructure for decades.

It’s been well documented for over 60 years that Burma’s military, under various dictators, has led governments as brutal as any the world has seen over that period of time. With Suu Kyi and the NLD in power of a new, democratic Burma, the world hoped and assumed peace would finally come to Burma. After all, it was Suu Kyi’s father that had served as the general of the Burma Army during WWII and helped to defeat Japan, and now lives on in memory as a national hero. As a result, the international media refocused on other high-conflict areas and international pressure eased up on Burma.

Yet, human rights abuses committed by the Burma Army continue and have recently increased. Operating with impunity, the Tatmadaw commits acts of torture, rape and murder, while conducting mortar and artillery strikes. They use attack helicopters and fighter jets on their own civilians, including women and children, as world leaders and the media look the other way.

After a 17-year ceasefire, the Burma Army began a military offensive attacking the Kachin people in June of 2011. The Free Burma Rangers (FBR), a humanitarian relief organization, immediately came to the aid of their Kachin relief teams and the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) caught up in the sudden conflict, while also reporting on the air assaults and attacks on civilians.

The then Burma President, Thein Sein, denied the army’s use of attack aircraft despite FBR’s reports. Finally in December of 2011, Kachin FBR relief teams videotaped the Tatmadaw using both helicopters and aircraft to attack the Kachin people. FBR sent the video to the BBC and other international media outlets the next day. The international outcry led the long-isolated, xenophobic government, which was now trying to appease the Western powers in order to have multiple economic sanctions lifted against them, to stop the aircraft attacks against its own people. Yet they still continued fighting through ground forces.

Fast forward a few years to 2016-2017.  Although she was once vehemently hated by the Burma Army leadership, who subsequently kept her under house arrest for nearly 20 years because they feared the power of her national and international popularity, Aung San Suu Kyi is now the military’s biggest asset. With her purportedly in power, the international community and world leaders are nowhere to be found, giving a subtle green light for the military’s commanders and soldiers to resume raping, torturing, murdering and terrorizing any civilian or village that meets their immediate needs, regardless of how brutal and heinous the crimes.

Unlike a few years ago when the military stopped using attack aircraft due to international political pressure, today the Burmese skies are full of helicopters and planes destroying civilian homes and villages on a regular basis.  Yet today, there is no outcry from world leaders and little to no international political pressure.

These air strikes have destroyed hundreds of homes and villages (solidify this number?) while killing and wounding numerous Kachin families, including children living in areas where there are no Kachin militias.  To date, the Burma military and government have not released a statement as to the reason why they initiated the attacks on the Kachin people after 17 years of peace.  However, it is widely accepted that the military wants access to the vast amounts of valuable natural resources that lie within Kachin State for the purpose of trading with and solidifying their political ties with China.

By ignoring and not demanding accountability from the Burma government and military for these ongoing atrocities, human rights abuses and war crimes, world leaders and the international media remain complicit in the pain, suffering and lives lost of thousands of the men, women and children of northern Burma.

Timeline of Burma Army war crimes and human rights violations in Kachin and Northern Shan States (October – December, 2016)

[Graphic Images below]

The following is a list of numerous human rights abuses and war crimes that the Burma military committed, in just the last three months alone, against civilians of Kachin and Shan States in Northern Burma. These are only the ones confirmed by the Free Burma Rangers (FBR) Humanitarian Relief Teams, their local intelligent sources and a few documented by the Kachinland News. Because of limited access to areas controlled by the Burma Army, these monthly atrocities are more than likely only a fraction of what is actually committed by the Burma Army on a daily basis throughout Northern Burma.

Oct 1: The Burma Army fired a mortar round into a Muse Township village in Northern Shan State, Burma that killed a two year old girl, Mangshang Zung, and wounded two boys ages five and six years old, Lagwi Ting Kyang and Lagwi Bawm Lang. The two boys were sent to Mangshi Hospital in China.

Oct 3: While returning home from collecting bamboo, 58 year old Maru La Gawng was shot and killed by the Burma Army and his 45 year old wife, Labang Lu Ra, was taken and detained by the army. She was released later that day and Maru was buried at a nearby site located in Man Chyam Kadawng, Mansi Township.

Nov 2: The Burma Army detained, tied up and took away four men, Zinghtung Tu, Zatau Hkawng Lum, Ah Hpu and Tsai Lung, who were working at Tsai Lung’s farm hut near Jap Pu village. These men’s current status, whereabouts and physical wellbeing is unknown.

Nov 9: The Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion 418 opened fire in the IDP camp of Hpawng Seng Man Pying in Muse Township killing the IDP’s chickens and pigs, and then looting their property as the IDPs fled.

Nov 10: The Burma Army fired eight mortar rounds near Man Ye Shu village in Manton Township wounding a 30 year old woman, Ye Zum.

Nov 15: While harvesting their rice fields, three village men, Ya Na, Waw Sa and Bya Sa were detained and tortured by the Burma Army, but released in Waingman Township later that night.

Nov 18: The IDPs at camps in Nawng Hpai, Nawng Jang and Man Pin were threatened and forced at gun point by the Burma Army to move immediately to Munggu or Hpawing Seng in Muse Township. No reason was given.

Nov 22: Two civilian men, Dau Je Tu and Lahtaw Naw Din, were shot dead in Manshi Township by the Burma Army for carrying food to KIA soldiers from 27th Battalion earlier in the day.

Nov 22: Two village men, Lahpai Wan Seng and Zahkung, were walking in front of Pan Sai Police Station when the Burma Army shot and killed Lahpai and wounded Zahkun in the shoulder for carrying food for the KIA at Nam Ba Tek in Pang Sai Township. Zahkun’s current status and whereabouts are unknown.

Nov 23: Two villagers from Nam Hkam were killed and one from Ban Ma Kawng Kat Village was wounded when the Burma Army fired several mortar rounds into the villages.

Nov 25: Munggu Town of Muse Township in Northern Shan State was a large housing area with hundreds of homes and thousands of residents when the Burma Army set fire to the majority of homes and rice barns (see photo).

Nov 25: The Burma Army arrested and detained 11 civilians (seven men/four women) from Nam Pa Tek village and took them to Hpai Kawng Village.  Their whereabouts and physical wellbeing are currently unknown

Dec 5-6: The Burma Army Light Infantry Division 99 returned to Hpau Jung Village, Munggu Town, and burned down most of the remaining houses and rice barns from their attack in November. The soldiers also looted as much property as they could carry in their trucks.

Dec 9: In Munggu Quarter 4 the Burma Army called for an 80 year old man to come out from inside his house. When Jau Zau walked outside at the soldiers’ request, they shot and killed him.

Dec 11: When the villagers of Munggu Quarter 2 heard that the Burma Army was coming, most of the villagers fled. Upon the villagers return to their homes, they found and exhumed three graves containing the bodies of three men

Nov 26: Four civilian farmers, Sumlut Nawng, Sumlut Gam Mun, Tangbau Naw Chyan and Lahtaw Zau Bawk from Bang Wa Village were tending their cattle when the Burma Army Unit Light Infantry Division 33 arrested, cut and tortured them before admitting the four men to the Nam Du Hospital.

Dec 3: The Burma Army Unit 421 from MOC 7 shot and killed 32 year old civilian man, Than Soe, from Ye Nan Chuang Village.  That afternoon 500 jade workers carried the deceased body and protested in Hpakant Township.

Dec 4: The Burma Army fired several rockets from a helicopter into the village of Nam Ha in Munngu Town of Muse Township killing three civilians; 60 year old male Ai Sam, 60 year old female Ei Lau, and 15 year old boy Aik Sam. Seven other villagers were wounded, including a young child.

Dec 13: While returning home in Putao Kawng Kahtawng Village from hunting, two village men, Yungngai Hpung Shin and Mabu Hpung Ram, were confronted by the Burma Army. Yungngai managed to run and escape, but Mabu was accused of being a KIA soldier and subsequently beaten and tortured. Mabu’s current whereabouts and physical wellbeing are unknown.

Dec 16: Chyanggu Nu Nu Mai, a two year old girl, was wounded by shrapnel from a Burma Army air bombing attack on her village, Au RA Yang, in Njang Yang Township. She was being treated at Myitkyina Hospital.

Dec 19: Dashi Lawn, a 51 year old man from Hpunggam Village in Muse Township in Northern Shan State, was detained by the Burma Army as he made his way to attend his corn fields. He was tortured and killed by cutting his throat. His body was found on Dec 26 lying next to the toilet at the home of Gyung Hkam by others villagers who had earlier fled the Burma Army.

Dec 20: Villagers discover a mass grave containing the remains of 18 Mung Lung villagers, including a two year old boy, in a forest near Mung Lung Nam Hkye Ho village of the Munggu area in Northern Shan State, Burma. The bodies of the villagers were badly burnt before they were buried. The 18 villagers were detained by Burma Army soldiers from the 88th and 99th Light Infantry Division on Nov 28, 2016 according to a Mung Lung Nam Hkye Ho villager. The villager said that most of the Mung Lung villagers fled, but the ones that remained testified that they were simple civilians with nothing to do with the war and that the Burma Army would not harm them.

Dec 25: The Burma Army Light Infantry Division 88, (Battalion 27) detained 72 year old Sumhka Naw Rip at his village, Ndang Hka, in Mansi Township. He was then shot in the groin before half his head was blown away by a high powered rifle.

The body of Sumhka Naw Rip. (Photo courtesy of Kachin Independence Army)

Dec 31: Wang Hkang, a 50 year old man from the village of Nawng Heng, Wing Seng area in Muse Township, was stabbed in the stomach by a Burma Army soldier. A Burma Army medic stitched him up and sent him home, then threatened all villagers that if they told this story the Burma Army would kill everyone in the village.[4]

Dec*:  A 30 year old women from Dawng Waw Village in northern Shan State was raped by the Burma Army and her elder brother was killed.

Dec*:  While going back to a school to collect a couple of younger children they knew who had been abandoned as villagers fled, two ethnic Lisu sisters were accosted, raped and killed by Burma Army soldiers in Bangsai Village, Bangshi. Their bodies were found alongside the road between Bangsai and Hpunggan villages on December 19, 2016. That same day the girls’ younger brothers, aged five and seven, went missing in the same area and are presumed dead.

Dec*:  While walking home to her village in Bangsai a 40 year old Chinese women was raped by three Burma Army soldiers. She is currently living with her sister, but is still so traumatized that her sister says she is mentally unstable.

*Specific date of event unknown

September – December 2016 Account of Burma Army Attacks Against Civilians and Ethnic Armies

***The figures below are limited to reports from FBR teams and do not represent the totality of military battles or human rights abuses perpetrated by the Burma Army.  On-the-ground intelligence indicates the numbers are indeed much higher, yet strict reporting methods restrict all estimations and ambiguities, resulting in fewer incidents being collected for data.

Burma Army Attacks (Infantry and Air) – 505

Burma Army Jet (Attack) – 106

Burma Army Helo (Attack) – 41

Burma Army Jet (Recon) – 231

Burma Army Helo (Recon) – 83

Burma Army Drone (Recon) – 16

Burma Army actions against civilians:

Civilians Killed – 55

Civilians Wounded – 27

Civilians Tortured – 27

Civilians Extorted – 7

Civilians Robbed – 4

Civilians Forced into Labor – 8

Civilian’s Property Destroyed – 13 Houses, 2 Rice Patties, 2 Barn, 1 Cattle

Civilians Detained (without reason) – 41

Displacement: 4000+ New IDPs

Other reports confirmed and reported by Kachinland News:

Nov 20: Two civilians and sextons of the (Munggu) Mongkoe Kachin Baptist Church, Lashi Tu and his wife, were killed by Burma Army artillery rounds fired from Byuha Hill outside of Munggu Town. The Burma Army refused to allow the church members to retrieve their bodies.

Nov 22: Zahkung Hkun Mai, a deacon of Nantau Kachin Church, was shot dead by the Burma Army as he was riding his motorcycle between Nam Tau and Pangsai.

Dec 23: Burma Army troops from Light Infantry Division 88 arrested and killed 51 year old Maran Ja Naw, a Nam Hka villager, on his way to Na Hkawng Bum, Mansi Township. Ja Naw’s deceased body was found with his throat cut in Dawai Hkaraw the next day.

Dec 25: On Christmas Day in Bang Gaw Htingnu village, Mansi Township, Sumhka Dun Naw was shot dead by Burma Army troops from Light Infantry Division 88. His only child had been taken away by Burma Army troops in 2015 and his whereabouts remain unknown.

Download the report in English HERE.

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