Some sixty ethnic Kachin and Burmese rights advocacy groups from 21 countries across the world took part in a Global Day of Action on Friday in order to mark the second anniversary of armed conflicts in Kachin State that displaced about 100,000 people.
The refugees were caught in the crossfire that broke out in Kachin State, northern Burma, in June, 2011, between the Burmese government army and ethnic Kachin rebels, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).
Human rights abuses in Kachin areas, including widespread sexual violence against ethnic women used as a weapon of war with impunity were also highlighted on the occasion of the Global Day of Action.
A joint statement released by the rights advocates, stated that the two-year-old conflicts resulted in human rights abuses against civilians. The displaced civilians have suffered from abuses including the rape of women and children, arbitrary execution, torture, forced labour, mortar bombing and the burning and looting of villages, according to the statement.
“During the military attacks, the Burmese army targeted civilians. This constitutes a war crime. Human rights abuses committed by the Burmese army documented by the United Nations could also qualify as crimes against humanity,” the statement read.
The Kachin and Burmese participants also called for the establishment of a federal democratic Burma to guarantee a durable peace.
Gawlu La Awng of the KIO’s Foreign Department said in the statement, “The root cause of the conflict in Kachin State is the lack of national equality based on the current constitution.”
“Without a political solution which is the formation of a federal democratic Burma that guarantees self-determination for the Kachin and all ethnic nationalities, there can never be a durable peace in the country,” he added.
On Thursday, Minister Soe Thane told journalists gathered in Naypyidaw at the World Economic Forum that the government was considering a federal political system to end the conflicts in ethnic areas.
In Sydney, Australia, Kachins and their supporters joined the Global Day of Action on Friday, wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the Kachin national flag, holding the national flag and placards calling for justice for the victims of abuses in Kachin State.
Some placards also read: “No Defence Ties with Burma,” referring to Australia’s recent decision to open military-to-military links with Burma.
In Britain, members of the Kachin community and London-based rights group Burma Campaign UK also held a protest outside the British Foreign Office, urging William Hague, UK Foreign Secretary, to highlight the issue of rape and sexual violence committed by the Burmese government’s troops, and press for federal constitutional reform in Burma.
Despite several rounds of peace talks between the government and the KIO leaders—the most recent of which concluded late last month in Myitkyina—there has been very little progress on a genuine, said the rights advocates.
They said while the Kachin and other ethnic minorities and ordinary Burmese citizens suffer under the military-backed government, the international community continues turn a blind eye and rewarded the government by lifting key sanctions instead.