Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rape Being Used as a Weapon of War in Burma

Photo: Banyar Kong Janoi

Download Burmese Rights activists and the US based Human rights watch are accusing the Burmese military of crimes against humanity.
They say the Burmese army is raping civilan women in the conflict zones where there is separatist fighting between the state army and armed ethnic groups who are demanding greater independence.
Banyar Kong Janoi in a village in Kachin State hears the story of one such rape victim.

It is raining when I arrive in a small village in the Kachin state where 35 year old Ma Myit lives.
Ma Myit is not her real name; she asked to stay anonymous.
She says all her life she has lived in fear of Burmese soldiers.  
“When I was about 15 years old, I was out in the woods finding food for pigs along with other girls from our village. There is a Burmese battalion posted near our village and when soliders saw us they tried to catch us. Luckly I escaped then. Some of my friends who couldn’t run fast enough were caught and raped by the soliders.”
But this year on the 20th of June Ma Myit wasn’t so lucky.
“Our village is on the way between Myitkyina and Bhamo. I was heading to Bhamo for a religious meeting. There was fighting on the way, so I was walking around the paddy field instead of going straight to avoid confrontation. Unfortunately, I met the Burmese soldiers in the paddy field and they captured me.”
She says the Burmese soldiers used her as entertainment for five days.  
“The soldiers took me along with their army battalion, passing by many villages. During that time they were raping me every night. I don’t want to recall my experience with them. I feel bad even when talking about it now. I don’t want to recall anything: I just want to forget it. I was forced to sleep with a soldier and a colonel. In the middle of the night, the colonel came to me. I screamed, but the soldier beside me said nothing and neither did other people. The colonel and I struggled. I think he is about 60 years old. In the morning, I told the soldiers that if they continued to assault me this way they would have to kill me first.”  
Ma Myit escaped and ran to a Shan village where she asked for help.
“I was naked and came knocking at a house the village in the middle of the night. The people came out of and pointed with flash lights.”
Then a woman gave her clothes and brought her some food.
The next day they helped her return home.
Ma Myit is one of the many women force to live with the horrors of war.
Ma Naw Myay Sein is from a Kachin womens organization in the provincal capital Laiza.
The group is documenting rape cases taking place in the Kachin State.  
She shows me some documents and pictures of the raped victims.  
“We have documented a lot of rape cases. As an example case, two Burmese officers raped a woman on the way when she went to a rice field. One officer ordered her to perform oral sex and another assaulted her. While one of the officers attempted to kill her, she ran away. There are countless cases we have received but some cases we can not verify so we have to put them aside. In some cases, the victims were able to escape, but some were killed by the Burmese soldiers on the spot.”
They have verifyied 18 rape cases commited by the Burmese soldiers since the fighting broke out in the Kachin state in early June.
Kachin independence activist Htoi Bu says the human rights abuses are politically motivated.  
“In Kachin State, if the Burmese soldiers see a passerby, they asked: ‘Are you Kachin?’ If he or she answers yes, he or she will be killed. In the worst cases, women including young girls are raped and killed by the Burmese army. We have heard that the soldiers get their orders from their senior officers. This kind of act is really inhumane and shameful among Burmese people and in the international community. If the Burmese government is to be genuine in its call to build a united country, they must recognize that Kachin people are their people.”
Elaine Pearson is Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director.  
She says it is time to establish a commission of inquiry to investigate the allegation of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Burma.
“Clearly, the Burmese government has shown that they are unwilling to address this kind of abuses unless there is some kind of external pressure. So the number one thing we are calling the commission of inquiry to investigate is this allegation of war crimes. This would then lead to an international independent investigation. And we believe that could indeed play a role in deterring the future violation of human rights and future abuses by the Burmese army.”
The co-ordinator of a relief committee for the Kachin, La Rip said international communities should respond quickly to this emerging humanitarian crisis.
“The fighting should not be excuses for these abuses. Simply people around here would say that ‘aww, it can be because the war is there, because the fighting hasn’t been stopped, so the abuses would happen.’ No, actually, I don’t agree with that. Even the fighting if there has been on dialogue at the moment that kind of abuses should be totally stopped. And if those kinds of abuses are taking place, international organizations, who are responsible to protect civilians, should take immediate actions.”

Friday, August 19, 2011

‘We have to Dance to the Rhythm of War Music’: Kachin Refugees

Saturday, 13 August 2011 13:16 Banyar Kong Janoi

Photo: Banyar Kong Janoi

Download Burmese Rights groups are calling on international humanitarian organizations to help the growing number of people fleeing the conflict between the Kachin Independence Army and Burmese government army.
Thousands have already been displaced from the conflict that started in June.
As fight spreads to neighboring Shan and Karen states hundreds more are fleeing to the Chinese border everyday.
Local refugee groups as they don’t have the resources to look after them.
Banyar Kong Janoi reports from a make-shift camp in Laiza.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

New Generation War in Burma

Saturday, 06 August 2011 15:15 Banyar Kong Janoi

Photo: Banyar Kong Janoi

Download Despite ceasefire talks being attempted between the Kachin Independence army and the Burmese government, fierce fighting in frontline areas is still taking place.
As with other armed ethnic groups, the Kachin have abandoned their previous claim for independence from Burma.
Instead want they say they are fighting for is a certain degree of autonomy over their own affairs which would guarantee respect for their own rights and culture.
Banyar Kong Janoi reports from Kachin Independent Army headquarters in Laiza.

The Kachin Independent Army’s headquarters in Laiza is a hive of activity for senior officials to fight against Burmese army.  
A big map is hanging on the wall with a line of remark where the current fighting is.
Update military reports hang to senior officials.  
The Burmese soldiers fire their rockets to Laiza.  
Using high-tech equipment, such as Google earth software, an officer tracks where Burmese soldiers fire their rockets. It is about 9,000 meters far from Laiza.
Thirty years old Htoi Bu has joined Kachin Independence Organization, the political wing of KIA, after her post-graduated in linguistic five years ago as a campaigner.
She is campaigning among young people about their struggle.
Despite ceasefire talks between the government and the KIA, she said this war will not end soon.
“I think this civil war will be widespread around the country; not only in border of Kachin State, but also other cities. The ethnic armed groups have an agreement, if we cannot solve the problem with the Burmese government politically, we have to solve militarily.  That’s why; all ethnic groups will fight for their rights until they can achieve what they want.”
Some 17,000 people have been displaced by the fighting that began in early June.
But Htoi Bu says her people are use to suffering.
“We are fighting federalism so we can be governed by our own people. The way junta governs us today is threaten our culture, language, and religion so this fighting is meaningful for us. Of course, our people are suffering because of this war but we have been facing much more trouble under Burmese military government. So we believe this war is worth the sacrifice.”
La Nan is the joint-secretary of the Kachin Independence Organization.  
He said if the Burmese government is genuine about a ceasefire, they should make a nationwide ceasefire with all ethnic armed groups.
“If we want to stop this civil war, it is impossible to make a deal only one group. Now, the government has been fighting against with Shan, Kachin, Karen, and Mon. So first they should stop fighting against those groups and then start talking about the ceasefire plan. If they even do not stop fighting against those groups, how we can believe this ceasefire is genuine? We know, we cannot find a solution by military means. At the end of the day, we have to talk and negotiate to find a solution.”   
The fighting in June marked the end of 17 years ceasefire agreement.
The agreement defined a framework for future business deals and outlined a portion of the Kachin State that would fall under the KIO's control.
However, the document was never made public, which made the assessment of its implementation difficult.
La Nan said signing that agreement back in 1994 was a mistake.   
“At that time, only two parties: KIO and junta witnessed the ceasefire agreement. No one knew what the agreement was about. Besides, we did not have a third a party to monitor the agreement. As a result, the government as they were the biggest force was taking advantage of the deal and they did whatever they want.”
La Nan says they do not want to make the same mistake again.
“If we have to sign ceasefire again, we need to have a clear timeline on what both parties will do for the country’s political development. Besides, we need a third party to monitor the agreement for who is taking advantage of it. We are ready to sign a ceasefire agreement if it is solid and has some kind of guarantee. We don’t want only talk without solid evidence. We have experienced when Burmese military said they would stop fighting but later they fought us again.”
He says they would accept China as the third party observer.
Laiza is crossed by a stream marking the Chinese border and About 300,000 Kachin also live in neighboring China.
“China should not think, this matter is internal problem. This problem is not internal problem, when the fighting broke out, it affected Chinese investment inside Burma plus more refugees will flee to China so it affected them directly. So they should involve solving the problem.”
La Nan says recent ceasefire talks between KIO and Burmese government official in Laijayang did not reach a solution.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has sent a letter to government and ethnic armed groups calling for a political solution to be found instead of trying to solve disputes with guns.
Her effort was welcomed by the ethnic groups.
La Rip, coordinator of a refugee relief committee for the Kachin, said both sides should not proud of their fighting.
“Fighting between them in military form, using military equipments also hurt civilian population and also daily activities of normal people. That’s why; there should be a space for dialogue negotiation and peace talk to find lasting solution. It is not no matter who win [this war], they should not be, both sides KIA and military government, should not be proud of claiming a victory one another. There won’t be that kind of victory against each other, I think. The finding solution is a victory for all: for KIA, Burmese government and civilian population.”