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.”