As the United Nations Security Council meets today to discuss developments in Burma, Burma Campaign UK called on Council members to address attacks against ethnic minority civilians by the Burmese Army, which have escalated in the past year.
There have been significant changes and welcome reforms in Burma, including the recent by-elections which, although not free and fair, saw Aung San Suu Kyi and her party, the National League for Democracy win 43 seats. It is right that these changes are acknowledged and encouraged.
However, this should not be at the cost of turning a blind eye to serious violations of international law which are being perpetrated against ethnic minorities.
In his last report the UN Special Rapporteur listed a series of human rights abuses, all committed in Burma in recent months, which could constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity. They include: ‘…grave violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, including attacks against the civilian population, extrajudicial killings, internal displacement, the use of human shields and forced labour, confiscation and destruction of property, and conflict-related sexual violence…’
Burma Campaign UK recently visited the conflict zone in Kachin State, Burma, and documented cases of rape, extrajudicial killings, abductions, torture, deliberate targeting of civilians with mortar and machine gun fire, looting, beatings, forced labour and use of child soldiers by the Burmese Army. Around 70,000 people have been forced to flee attacks and abuses by the Burmese Army, and President Thein Sein is not allowing aid agencies proper access to deliver essential aid.
“Encouraging further reforms while also addressing serious human rights abuses are not incompatible, and are in fact essential if lasting peace and democratic change are to be secured,” said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “The UN Security Council has a legal duty to address the increase in violations of international law which have taken place in Burma in the past year.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS:
Burma Campaign UK has launched an appeal for internally displaced refugees in Kachin State, Burma. Donations can be made online at:http://www.burmacampaign.org.uk/index.php/burma/donate/kachin-appeal
BBC Newsnight has investigated the abuses taking place in Kachin State. Their report can be viewed at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-17564726