CHIANG MAI, Thailand — Ethnic Kachin communities at home and abroad are urging the United Nations Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC), citing a recent military campaign in Kachin State’s Tanai Township that has displaced thousands of civilians and trapped many in the conflict zone.
A letter issued Monday and endorsed by 32 Kachin associations both in Myanmar and overseas says the 15-member Security Council “must support a resolution referring Burma to the International Criminal Court,” using another name for the country.
If they fail to do so, the letter adds, Security Council member “are making an active decision to allow the Burma military to keep killing ethnic civilians.”
Kachin “are hoping for the UN to take action, because the situation is getting much worse and UN intervention is urgently needed,” said Moon Nay Li, spokesperson for the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand.
Some 2,000 civilians from Awng Lawt, Sut Ra, and Sut Ring Yang villages have fled their homes to escape the latest fighting between the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, and the Kachin Independence Army. Many of them are trapped by the fighting in the jungle.
At least three people from Laiza town in Waingmaw Township and from Awng Lawt village in Tanai were reportedly killed during the second week of April by Tatmadaw artillery fire.
Monday’s letter says the Kachin and other ethnic minority groups in Myanmar have been subject to numerous violations of international law including execution, torture, forced displacement, forced labor, rape and other forms of sexual violence, confiscation of property, arbitrary arrest and detention, and denial of humanitarian assistance.
“The Burma military has used these tactics to instill fear and control in their attempts to destroy our ethnic identity, destroy our religion, colonize our lands, and steal our natural resources,” it says.
“As the Burmese military’s culture of impunity remains unchecked, [the] Burmese government is unable to exercise rule of law or capacity to protect [the] life of its citizens,” the letter adds. “We are once again appealing to the international community to hold perpetrators of war crimes and crime[s] against humanity…to account before [the] current conflict spills over to bordering regions.”
U Aung Htoo, a human rights lawyer and founder of the Legal Aid Network, said the military’s definition of the rule of law meant upholding the military-drafted 2008 Constitution and existing laws. But even by that definition, he said, “the essence of it, taking action against perpetrators and seeking justice for victims, is disappearing.”
“The military leaders who commit these crimes are too bold and commit them repeatedly. Therefore, we need to approach this through the ICC and other international courts to take action against them,” he said.
His network launched a report, “Seeking Accountability for Ending Impunity in Burma,” on Tuesday in Chiang Mai, Thailand, that analyzes three alleged war crimes in Shan, Karenni and Kachin state between November 2016 and January 2018.