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Statement: Human Rights Violations in Burma, Amidst Air Strikes on the People of Kachin by the Burmese Military

Statement on Human Rights Violations in Burma (Myanmar) Amidst Air Strikes on the People of Kachin by the Burmese Military

Armed conflict between the Burmese military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) restarted on June 9th, 2011, this marked the end a 17-year ceasefire agreement (1994 - 2011). Tens of thousands of ethnic Kachin civilians have fallen victim to the conflict, which has left many displaced and vulnerable.

According to the Burma Partnership, on October 8th, 2011, the Burmese military marched into Nam Lim Pa village and conducted unlawful arrests. Detained civilians were severely mistreated and the men forced to be laborers (1). Media reports also documented the use of anti-personal land mines and conscription of child soldiers as young as 14 during attacks on areas within the Kachin State (2).

On December 19th, 2012, three people were believed wounded after a bomb hit a cargo train and subsequent gunfire occurred during a battle between the Burmese military and the KIA in Mohnyin, a town, located in the Kachin State (3).

Since December 27th, 2012, frequent aerial attacks have been conducted against the KIA by the Burmese military, bringing substantial danger to the lives of civilians (4). Air strikes on Laiza, an area bordering Burma and China, continued on an almost daily basis (5). Attacks on Lajayang, near Laiza, also resulted in the death of one man and seriously injured three other civilians according to an American photojournalist (6). Several media agencies substantiated these reports.

Another three civilians were killed and six wounded on January 10th, 2013 during a Burmese military attack in Laiza (7). A 15-year-old boy was among the victims, according to KIA spokesman, Colnel James Lum Dau (8).

The UN News Centre estimates that around 75,000 people have been displaced (9) and approximately 31,000 displaced people are currently residing in government-controlled areas such as Myitkyina, Kachin State's capital, with some still living in fear as government security forces reputedly arrested and tortured a camp mate "suspected of having ties to the KIA" (10).

Media sources confirm that the Burmese government admitted knowledge of the air strikes but claimed that it was undertaken as a form of self-defense, after the KIA disrupted convoys carrying ammunition supplies (11).

Despite repeated appeals from the U.N. for the Burmese government to allow humanitarian assistance to reach Kachin people in vulnerable areas, the U.N. has failed to gain access since July 2012 (12). The U.N. Humanitarian Chief, Valerie Amos, stated that the U.N. was not allowed to enter some Government controlled areas and areas controlled by the KIO (13). Up until now, only a handful of aid organizations have been lucky enough to be granted permission to operate in vulnerable areas and this is insufficient to meet the needs of the people.

La Rip, coordinator of the Relief Action Network for Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees (RANIR) documented the deteriorating conditions at refugee camps and raised the alarm over high levels of food and water insecurity faced by refugees and displaced people on a daily basis (14).

Overcrowded conditions in areas to which ethnic-Kachin people escaped, have worsened with insufficient access to food and drinkable water, and poor sanitation (15). Diseases such as malaria and diarrhea are widespread (16).

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the Burmese government to 'desist from any action that could endanger the lives of civilians living in the area or further intensify the conflict in the region' and 'to work toward political reconciliation' (17). He highlighted the seriousness of ongoing violence that caused 'large-scale displacement of civilians' and pointed out that 'timely access' for the delivery of aid to vulnerable communities' is crucial (18). 

On January 18th, 2013, President Thein Sein stopped military operations against the KIA, however, it is reported that the Burmese military continues it's military operation (19).

Human Rights Now (HRN) urges the Burmese government, no matter what reasons they may have, to stop any violence that can expose the lives of civilians to dangers such as bombings or air strikes. HRN also demands that the government allow humanitarian aid urgent access to vulnerable areas where civilians are facing difficult conditions due to attacks by the Burmese military. It is not acceptable to conduct attacks based on claims of self-defense when tens of thousands of civilians' lives have been severely affected by the violence.

HRN also calls for the U.N. to strengthen its monitoring of the worsening situation in the area. Human rights abuses must not go unchecked and those who are responsible for the crimes must be tried and punished accordingly. The deteriorating situation in Burma needs immediate attention.

Human Rights Violations in Burma, Amidst Air Strikes on the People of Kachin by the Burmese Military PDF

1Partners Relief & Development 2011, Crimes in Northern Burma: Results from a fact-finding mission to Kachin
State, [Accessed 16 January 2013].
Murdoch, L 2012, 'Burmese under fire for abuses in Kachin', The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 March,> [16 January 2013].
Radio Free Asia, Burma 2012, Bomb blast, shelling in Kachin, 27 December, docid/50ed3406c.html> [accessed 16 January 2013]
Olarn, K and Mullen, J 2013, 'Myanmar airstrikes on Kachin rebels raise global concerns', Cable News Network(CNN), 3 January, [Accessed 16 January 2013].
AFP 2013, 'Kachin rebels say three dead in Myanmar strike', Channel NewsAsia Singapore, 14 January,> [Accessed 16 January 2013].
AAP 2013, 'Three die in Myanmar attack on Kachin base', The Australian, 14 January,> [Accessed 16 January 2013].
The United Nations News Centre 2012, 'UN relief chief asks Myanmar Government to allow aid deliveries in off-limits area', The United Nations, 7 December, [Accessed 16January 2013].
Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) 2012, 'Myanmar: Kachin fighting hits IDP health', Integrated Regional Information Networks, 15 November, [accessed 16 January 2013]
Hodal, K 2013, 'Burma steps up military offensive against Kachin rebels', The Guardian, 14 January, [accessed 16 January 2013]
The United Nations News Centre 2012, 'Myanmar: UN official urges stepped-up efforts to address humanitarian issues causing instability', The United Nations, 6 December, [Accessed 16 January 2013].
The United Nations News Centre 2012, 'UN relief chief asks Myanmar Government to allow aid deliveries in off-limits area', The United Nations, 7 December > [Accessed 16 January 2013].
Reuters 2012, 'Up to 10,000 Myanmar refugees seek refuge in China', The Asahi Shimbun, 8 February, [Accessed 16 January 2013].
IRIN 2012, 'Myanmar: Growing number of Kachin IDPs', Integrated Regional Information Networks, 29 October,[accessed 16 January 2013]
The United Nations Secretary-General (SG/SM/14750) 2013, 'Taking 'serious note' of reported air strikes in
Myanmar, Secretary -General urges end to actions that could endanger civilans, intensify conflict', the United Nations, 2 January [13 Jan. 2013].