20 July 2020: On 17 June 2020, the Network for Human Rights Documentation Burma (ND-Burma) was made aware by Ta’ang civil society organizations that a young girl from northern Shan state was sexually exploited and assaulted by the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS-SSA). ND-Burma condemns this violation of rights and urges all armed organizations to respect the lives and property of civilians.
There has been an increased military presence in northern Shan state over the last two months as the Burma Army expands their troops. This has contributed to unrest and instability, which has left many villagers fearful and concerned for their safety. The survivor of the attack said the perpetrator is Sai Aike Pan from the RCSS-SSA.
Ta’ang and Shan civil society organizations who are seeking truth and justice for the survivor are experiencing problems negotiating with the RCSS-SSA, including unsuccessful attempts to meet with them. The RCSS has denied an interview with the She Phee Myay news agency, the first media group to report on this incident. The civil society organizations involved, as well as the victim and her family have all received threats by RCSS-SSA.
We do not accept the lack of accountability from a human rights or rule of law perspective. The RCSS-SSA is a signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and in November 2019, signed the Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment, which calls for protecting children in armed conflict, committing to prohibit the use of children in hostilities. However, this case shows that civilians are targeted by the both armed organizations during the fighting between the Burma Army and Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs). These types of abuses are not only taking place in Shan state but in all areas where there is active armed conflict. Unresolved incidents in ethnic areas can lead to an increase in ethnic tensions, which would have longer lasting impacts on the national reconciliation and peace process in Burma. Ignoring cases of human rights abuses puts the safety of civilians at an increased risk of these crimes taking place again.
Further, ND-Burma calls for respect for human rights to be upheld. Human rights violations against civilians must be investigated and those responsible tried and be held accountable for their crimes. All the armed organizations, including the Burma Army and EAOs must respect, promote and practice human rights norms in line with international standards.
Lway Poe Jay