Burma Campaign UK today called on the British government to cancel plans to offer training to the Burmese Army, in light of the escalation of Burmese Army attacks in Kachin State, and ongoing human rights abuses being committed by the Burmese Army.
The Burmese Army has stepped up attacks in Kachin State and northern Shan State since the beginning of September, after a meeting between the Burmese government and United Nationalities Federal Council (UNFC) failed to reach agreement on whether the UNFC would attend a planned ceremony to sign a nationwide ceasefire.
There are also unconfirmed reports of increased human rights abuses against civilians, including gang-rape, torture and arbitrary arrests.
The British government announced earlier this year that it would reinstate the defence attaché position in the British Embassy in Rangoon, but quickly went further, and during President Thein Sein’s visit to the UK in July it was announced the UK would provide training for 30 serving Burmese Army soldiers. The seven week course, paid for by the British taxpayer, includes teaching the soldiers ‘the art and science of war’, according to the course programme.
The Burmese Army is not under civilian control and continues to commit human rights abuses which violate international law, including war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Shamefully, when British Prime Minister David Cameron met President Thein Sein, while he offered to provide training he did not even raise the issue of the Burmese Army violating a recently signed agreement to stop recruiting child soldiers.
“Even with the rose-tinted view of the situation in Burma that the British government has, surely they can see that training an army which is committing war crimes and crimes against humanity is unacceptable”, said Mark Farmaner, Director of Burma Campaign UK. “The silence of the British government and others regarding the Burmese Army escalation of attacks against the Kachin will encourage them to think they can get away with another big offensive like the one at the end of 2012, where mortar bombs were fired at civilians. Members of the Burmese Army should be on trial for their crimes, not getting training in Oxfordshire.”
Notes to editors:
William Hague’s Ministerial Statement referring to training agreement with the Burmese Army: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/visit-of-president-u-thein-sein-of-burma
Ministry of defence prospectus on the training course that will be given to the Burmese Army: http://www.da.mod.uk/prospectus/cmt/mdwsc