Eight Years of War in Kachin State and No End to Military Impunity

June 21st, 2019  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  6 minute read
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Eight years since the Myanmar[1] military broke a 17 year ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) have passed, and the impunity that the military has enjoyed means that gross human rights violations, such as the rape and murder of two Kachin schoolteachers in 2015, continue throughout ethnic areas. The report of a Ta’ang woman raped by two Myanmar military soldiers in northern Shan State in May 2019 only highlights the urgent need for international bodies such as the UN Security Council (UNSC) to hold Myanmar to account for not complying with international obligations, including UNSC Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security and other relevant resolutions that are supposed to protect civilians in armed conflict.

The war against the KIA has displaced over 100,000 people, and untold human rights violations have been committed against civilians. Despite the urgent need for humanitarian aid for IDPs, the Myanmar government has not permitted the delivery of aid to populations inside KIA-controlled areas since June 2016 according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. This amounts to 37% of IDPs in non-Government areas of Kachin and northern Shan States. In addition to this, travel and authorization restrictions has meant that humanitarian aid only reaches only 64% of IDPs. This violates UNSC Resolution 1265 on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, which “Underlines the importance of safe and unhindered access of humanitarian personnel to civilians in armed conflict, including refugees and internally displaced persons, and the protection of humanitarian assistance to them.”

While there is currently a Myanmar military-declared ceasefire that covers Kachin and Shan States, this should not be taken as a sign of commitment to a peace process on the side of the military, but rather a concentration of its military offensives in Rakhine State, as local Rakhine civilians are now experiencing the same violence, abuse and displacement that the Kachin have been going through for the past eight years. As the Kachin World Congress stated “It is evident that the Burma Army has no intention of seeking a peaceful solution to the world oldest civil war. They are continuing to use force to subjugate ethnic peoples, seize their lands and extort their rich natural resources for their business interests, regardless of the dire social and environmental impacts.”

In addition to the displacement, the Myanmar military continues to commit human rights abuses with impunity. It is over four years since two Kachin volunteer schoolteachers, working in Khaung Kha Village in northern Shan State, were raped and brutally murdered shortly after a Myanmar military battalion arrived in the village. The perpetrators have thus far evaded justice, and as is often the case with these crimes, impunity continues and the military is emboldened to continue committing the same horrific acts.

This is again demonstrated by the rape by two Myanmar military soldiers of an ethnic Ta’ang woman in Namhsan, northern Shan State in May 2019. Two soldiers raped her at gunpoint, and despite the authorities being notified, nothing has come of it. In fact the local military commander has said action will only be taken if the woman becomes pregnant. This flies in the face of specific UNSC Resolutions that Myanmar must comply with. In particular Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, which “Calls on all parties to armed conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, and all other forms of violence in situations of armed conflict.” This incident is not isolated. Various local ethnic human rights organizations have for years documented the systematic use of rape and sexual violence by the Myanmar military against ethnic women as a weapon of war, whether in Kachin, Shan, Karen, or other ethnic areas.

In blocking aid to displaced persons, using rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war, and indiscriminately shelling villages, the Myanmar military is violating a plethora of international human rights and legal obligations, including UNSC Resolutions. In addition to this is the report of the International Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (IIFFMM), which calls for Myanmar’s generals to be “investigated and prosecuted for genocide in the north of Rakhine State, as well as for crimes against humanity and war crimes in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States.” Yet in spite of such credible UN-mandated bodies’ findings and recommendations, the UNSC has continued to fail to take the responsibility that its mandate instructs and take action to end the impunity of the Myanmar military. Thus, the international community must act bilaterally and/or multilaterally to take all possible measures to impose targeted sanctions against the Myanmar military, including following up on the recommendation of the IIFFMM to cut all financial and other ties to the Myanmar military. Otherwise, cases such as that of the ethnic Ta’ang woman will only happen again and again, and Myanmar’s long and winding road to democracy, rule of law, and access to justice will never end.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

BHRN Appalled by ASEAN Report on Rohingya Repatriation

By Burma Human Rights Network

Statement of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar to all the Stakeholders on Myitsone Dam in Kachin State

By Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar

ျမန္မာႏိုင္ငံလံုးဆိုင္ရာ ကက္သလစ္ခရစ္ယာန္ဆရာေတာ္ႀကီးမ်ားအဖြဲ႔ခ်ဳပ္၏ ျမစ္ဆံုေရကာတာစီမံကိန္းႏွင့္ ပတ္သက္ေသာ သေဘာထားထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္

By Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar

Eight Years of War, Violation of Human Rights, Forced Displacement and Human Suffering in Kachin and Northern Shan States

By Joint Strategy Team

ကိုေပါလုႏွင့္ မဆိုင္းႏူးပန္တို႔အား တရားစြဲဆိုမႈအေပၚ ကခ်င္စစ္ေရွာင္လူငယ္မ်ား၏ သေဘာထားထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္

By Kachin IDPs Youth Committe

Statement by Ta’ang civil society groups on the Burma Army’s failure to take action over the rape of a young Ta’ang woman

By Ta’ang Students and Youth Union, Ta’ang Women’s Organization and Ta’ang Legal Aid

တအာင္းအမ်ိဳးသမီးငယ္တစ္ဦးကို္ ျမန္မာ့တပ္မေတာ္ စစ္သား ၂ ဦးမွ မုဒိမ္းျပဳက်င့္ခဲ့ၿပီး တာ၀န္ယူေျဖရွင္းေပးမႈ မရွိသည့္အေပၚ

By Ta’ang Students and Youth Union, Ta’ang Women’s Organization and Ta’ang Legal Aid

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”