Kachin residents have been undergoing robberies and assaults by Burmese soldiers amid the civil war in the Kachin State since June 9, Kachin News Group [KNG] has reported.
Burmese soldiers in plain clothes are robbing travelers to loot them of their money and other belongings around the Irrawaddy dam project at Myitsone, 27 miles north of the Kachin capital of Myitkyina.
According to local residents, there is no rule of law in these conflict areas as far away from the Myitkyina capital of Kachin State. Burmese soldiers do not abide by the law and behave like rogues. They do not allow Kachin nationals to cross the bridge between Myitkyina and Tanghpre villages (Myitsone).
They discriminate between the locals, saying: “You Kachins are not worthy of crossing this bridge. You go pass under the bridge, now flooded and muddy.”
Soldiers have also accused the Kachins living around the area to be families of KIA members. In the Gwi Htu village, Burmese soldiers have forcibly driven out old men and women who were unable to run away from the village. Soldiers forced them out of their houses accusing them of supporting the KIA.
The Thailand-based Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT) reported in mid-June that 18 women and girls have been raped. One woman and three other girls were killed after being gang-raped by Burmese soldiers.
Currently, there are over 20,000 war refugees at the Sino-Burma border. Kachin residents who have fled to the China border require urgent aid, according to KIA officials. In Laiza KIA headquarters alone, there are over 13,000 refugees staying in six refugee camps and depend on limited assistance from the KIA.
“This is not only human rights abuse but the Burmese Army is also oppressing Kachin people,” said Tsa Ji, spokesperson for the Kachin Development Networking Group (KDNG).
Last Friday, hundreds of people in the US, Denmark, United Kingdom, Malaysia, and elsewhere gathered to protest the recent deadly clashes between the Burmese authorities and ethnic militias in Burma’s northern Kachin State.
Standing in front of Burmese and Chinese embassies, Kachin nationals held up placards calling an end to the hostility and to stop the building of dams by Chinese companies in the State, reported Kachin News Group.
Chinese power companies are building a series of dams in northern Burma to supply electricity to China. The biggest and most controversial of these dams is the Myitsone Dam, a massive 3,600MW hydropower plant being built by China Power Investment and situated in an area of great cultural and ecological significance. The environmental impact assessment on this first dam on the Irrawaddy also expressed grave concerns.
According to the Burma Rivers Network, the current conflict is closely related to the dams. The government has sent in troops because it wants to gain control of a region that hosts major Chinese investments in hydropower. Kachin State has till now been largely controlled by Kachin forces.
China now finds itself trapped in the middle because of its craving for secure energy supplies from Burma. It seems China fears of mounting conflict around its hydropower projects so close to its borders.
On 30 June, 3 representatives of the Kachin National Organization (KNO) met representatives of the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in its London office. They discussed the current situation in the State and the plight of war refugees.
This meeting was organized by Benedict Rogers, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) South East Asia Team Leader, who visited Burma several times including the Kachin State and other such remote areas. During the meeting, Kachin representatives submitted a four-point proposal to the FCO.
They requested the UK government to appoint staff to watch over the situation of refugees in the Kachin State. They asked for immediate help for the war refugees. They urged the UK to push the Burmese government for ceasefire. They also asked support in forming a Commission of Inquiry for Crimes against Humanity in Burma committed to looking into the situation created by Burmese military on civilians.
The state-run New Light of Myanmar wrote openly that the only purpose of the Burma Army’s attacks on the KIA is to defend its members and an important hydropower project, without the intent of any hostility.
According to the firsthand frontline reports, the hostilities against the KIA were made by the Burmese government and the KIO has to use their own right to defend their indigenous soil. In the view of the Kachin people, their land has been forcefully occupied by the Burmese government.