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Myanmar Junta's War Crime Displaces Thousands of Civilians in Kachin State

By Nora Aung 2 June 2022

Nearly 6,000 people have fled their homes and approximately 25 have been killed in Kachin and northern Shan states by Myanmar’s regime forces from November 2021 to April, according to the rights group Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT).

KWAT’s “New Threats from the Air” report on Wednesday said airstrikes and artillery were targeting civilian villages and rape was being used as a weapon, constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The notorious Light Infantry Divisions 33, 88 and 99 fired artillery on civilian areas alongside junta airstrikes in Kachin State, killing approximately 21 people and injuring around 40, the report said.

“There is strong evidence that people are being killed and injured in their houses by airstrikes and artillery where there is no fighting,” said KWAT spokeswoman Moon Nay Li.

Regime forces fired artillery at civilian areas of Muse, Namkham and Lashio townships in Shan State and Hpakant, Momauk and Shwegu townships in Kachin State, killing approximately eight villagers and injuring around 20, including six children, the report said.

Eleven civilians were killed, including a seven-year-old boy shot dead in his bed in the Kachin capital Myitkyina, and seven injured in indiscriminate shooting by regime forces, the group said.

In early 2022 two villagers were killed and 13 injured, including six children, in airstrikes on Putato and Hpakant townships along the Irrawaddy river.

“Before the 2021 coup, it was still safe in cities like Myitkyina. Now urban and rural communities do not go outside at night,” said Moon Nay Li.

The report detailed how sexual violence was used without fear of prosecution and that two members of the same battalion committed rape in November 2021 and April 2022.

Civilians are used as human shields and arbitrarily arrested and tortured into confessing to being Kachin Independence Army (KIA) or people’s defense force members, the report said.

The KIA is a powerful armed group that resumed fighting with Myanmar’s military in Kachin State in 2011.

So far this year approximately 5,700 villagers have fled their homes, adding to the existing displaced population of 100,000 in Kachin State, according to the KWAT. They are sheltering in camps, forests and with relatives, the report said.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Tuesday that Myanmar has exceeded a million displaced civilians for the first time.

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