Illegal Detentions Soar in Kachin State

By Lawi Weng 31 July 2012

Human rights abuses are worsening in northern Burma where more than 100 ethnic Kachin have been detained illegally and face possible torture by government troops, claim observers in the region.

San Aung, a peace broker between the Burmese government and Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), told The Irrawaddy on Monday that local people continue to disappear and so the issue was brought to the National Human Rights Commission in state capital Myitkyina on July 27.

“They only asked me about the peace process and I tried to present about the human rights issue, but they are not interested in it,” he said, adding that the number of ethnic Kachin detainees has more than doubled since last month.

One Kachin family told the BBC Burmese Service on Saturday how they found a relative buried in the ground after he was seized by government troops.

United Nations Special Rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana discussed the issue of Kachin refugees and the stalled peace process with members of the 88 Generation Students group in Rangoon on Monday.

“We discussed several issues with him such as political prisoners who remain incarcerated as well as Arakan, Kachin and land confiscations,” said leading group member Ko Ko Gyi.

Regarding the Kachin issue, Ko Ko Gyi said that his group described the situation on the ground during their visit earlier this month, including the potential resettlement of refugees and peace talks. Quintana said that he will present their comments to the UN Human Rights Council, said Ko Ko Gyi.

Government troops have been accused of detaining local Kachin people who they suspect support the KIO under article 17/1 of the Unlawful Associations Act. Dwe Bu, an ethnic Kachin MP in Burma’s Lower House for the Unity and Democracy Party, said, “Our Kachin people have been suffering a great deal under article 17/1 for many years.

“They arrest people who they are unsure about and the current ground troops are acting unlawfully. This could make people distrust the government and armed forces.”

More than 1,500 Kachin people marched in Myitkyina on July 4 to demand the release of Brang Shawng. He was arrested on suspicion of KIO links on June 17 at an internally displaced persons camp in government-controlled Myitkyina Township where his family was taking shelter from nearby fighting.

Railways Minister Aung Min, Naypyidaw’s chief peace negotiator, reportedly claimed that article 17/1 was abolished for the KIO during peace talks last month. However, observers said that local Kachin people continue be detained despite his assurances.

“Aung Min is a person who cannot be trusted,” said KIO spokesman La Nan. Fighting in Kachin State resumed in June last year after the end of a 17-year ceasefire. Around 70,000 civilians have been forced to flee fighting by their homes to live in temporary camps by the Chinese border, claim humanitarian groups.