Burma Army Should End Abuses Against IDPs: Kachin NGOs

By The Irrawaddy 26 May 2014

RANGOON — More than a dozen Kachin civil society groups released a statement last week, calling on the Burma Army to stay away from camps of displaced civilians during their operations in northern Burma.

The NGOs also called on any potential international investors to refrain from investing in the region in northern Burma until a comprehensive peace agreement has been reached.

Seventeen Kachin NGOs, working on issues such as aid, health, human rights and environment, met last week for a conference in Kachin Independence Army-controlled town of Mai Ja Yang, located on the Burma-China border.

In a joint statement, released on Friday, they said they were concerned about the recent increase in fighting, which has seen the Burma Army step up operations in southern Kachin State and northern Shan State. Some 4,000 civilians have been newly displaced by the fighting between the KIA and the government since April.

The army has been accused of raiding and shelling camps for internally displaced people (IDPs) in southern Kachin State and harassing residents.

The NGOs said, “We are concerned about human rights abuses affecting IDPs and the local population northern Shan state and Kachin, who are forced to flee from their homes in early April, because of the military’s attacks.”

More than 120,000 people have been displaced by the conflict in northern Burma since mid-2011.

The NGOs also called on the United States, United Kingdom, China and European countries to refrain from providing military assistance to the Burmese government as long as conflict continues to rage.

“We don’t want the Western countries providing support to the [Burmese] military,” the groups said. “It’s too early to offer support to the government.”

Last year, the US and UK initiated limited military cooperation with the Burma Army, consisting of workshop on human rights and the law of armed conflict.

The groups also warned against foreign investment in the area while conflict continues. “The international community should not carry out investments in Kachin State while there is armed conflict and the peace building process between Kachin armed groups and the government is ongoing,” they said.

“We still have neither ceasefire agreement nor political dialogue yet. So, we are afraid that international investment could do more harm than good to our area,” Tsa Ji of the Kachin Development Networking Group told The Irrawaddy.

Mountainous Kachin State is rich in forest and mineral resources, while its rivers have been targeted for potential hydropower dam development, mostly by Chinese state-owned companies.

North of the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina, at the confluence of tributaries of the Irrawaddy River, China Power Investment has been working on the Myitsone Dam project.

The hugely controversial project was suspended by President Thein Sein when he came to power in 2011 and the future of the project remains unclear.