The Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) has said the Burmese military has launched fresh attacks, deliberately targeting civilians in several village tracts in northern Shan State.  In its 22 April statement, SHRF also accused the government’s armed forces of using civilians as human shields during a latest offensive in northern Shan State.

The statement says, “A group of about 50 young men and women traveling to celebrate the water festival were apprehended by Burmese troops, and forced to walk in front and behind them as human shields, to ward off attacks by Shan troops.”

The SHRF says it is seriously worried about fresh widespread atrocities by the army against civilians in Tangyan Township, northern Shan State. SHRF calls the government to take accountability for its soldiers’ atrocities. In addition, it also calls on the international community to hold the Thein Sein government accountable for the violence.

Lt. Gen. Ywet Sitt, left, leader of Shan State Army (SSA), and Gen. Soe Win, chief of Burmese government negotiation group, shake hands during their meeting in Kengtung, eastern Shan State, 19 May 2012. Pic: AP.

Amid ongoing peace talks with the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), the statement says troops from nine Burmese battalions have since last month been conducting a fierce offensive to drive out the SSA-N from their bases south of Tangyan. On April 15, during the annual Water Festival, government troops launched new attacks, intentionally targeting civilians in several Shan village tracts.

Two children were injured and a school and several houses were damaged in army mortar attacks. Government armed forces apprehended and blow civilians in at least nine villages, causing severe injury. Children were also kicked and beaten with rifle butt by the soldiers, the statement said.

According to SHRF, vehicles of villagers were set on fire by Burmese troops. Soldiers also threatened to burn down villages where fighting had taken place with Shan troops in northern Shan State. As a result of those mistreatments, nearly 2,000 villagers have currently run away to Tangyan, where they are taking refuge in temples and in relatives’ houses. Some have also fled east across the Salween River to Wa-controlled areas.

The Burma Army attacks are in direct breach of their ceasefire agreement with the SSA-N, and call into question the probability of the current peace process between the Burmese government and the ethnic armed groups.

In the interests of promoting sustainable peace in Shan State, the Shan Human Rights Foundation urgently calls on foreign governments to publicly condemn these attacks and atrocities by the Burma Army, and to make further engagement with the Thein Sein government conditional upon genuine efforts to find a political solution to the conflict in Burma.

At the same time, another rights group, Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN) demands to end the ongoing conflicts between Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) and Burma army. It also calls to withdraw all units reinforced during the conflicts in March as committing atrocities, abuses and rapes against women and children continue, Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.) said.

“In March, we have made an inquiry by phone to some of the villages in the armed conflict areas. We were told that there was a report on 3 Ta-ang women were taken by the Burma army soldiers to the frontline. Following their release, the 3 Ta-ang girls said, they had to work for the Burma army in the camp for 3 days. They simply told they had worked for the army unit without specifying kind of work. If they revealed the story ‘as it’ or not is questionable. We have been receiving reports of rape cases against women continuously from Tangyan,” said Ying Harn Fah, a spokesperson for SWAN.

“On 21 April there was also a report on rape from Tangyan that took place on 14 April,” Ying Harn Fah added.

Such atrocities, abuses, human right violations and rapes are common incidents committed by the Burma army and often heard from the locals during the recent clashes between SSA and Burma army, said Sai Nong from Tangyan.

Shan Women’s Action Network mainly demands for a real ceasefire and to honor the terms of agreements made between the government and ethic armed groups. It also demands moving forward of the peace process in order to have a genuine peace that all the people are wishing. With the intention that clashes to be stopped, it is necessary Burma army withdraw all recent deployed troops during the conflicts, the right group told Shan Herald Agency for News.

A statement dated 5 April 2013 by SHRF said that atrocities by Burmese troops in a new military operation against the Shan State Army North have caused over 1,000 villagers, from 16 villages in Tang-yan, to flee from their homes during the past two weeks.

Since February, thousands of Burmese troops and artillery have been deployed to pressure the SSA-N to withdraw from its territories along the Salween River, near Tangyan. There have been armed clashes, and Burmese troops have been laying land mines and committing human rights violations against local civilians, the statement says.

Thus, the ceasefire agreement between Naypyitaw and SSPP/SSA on 28 January 2012 seems sham and false. Analysts believe seeking temporary ceasefire by the government seems to ease economic sanctions, rather than genuine peace.