Burma must end war in Kachin State to show empathy for refugees
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Burma must end war in Kachin State to show empathy for refugees

Burma’s quasi-civilian government has erased two sons of Aung San Suu Kyi from a blacklist that once banned them from coming into the nation, President Thein Sein’s official website said Thursday. A list of 2,082 Burmese (Myanmar) nationals and foreigners, including Suu Kyi’s sons Alexander and Kim Aris, and her late husband Michael Aris, was declared on the official website.

Moreover, distinguished Swedish journalist/writer Bertil Lintner, Australian journalist Phil Thornton, American freelance journalist Steve Hirsch, AP’s Bangkok Bureau Chief Denis Gray and many more Burma-related journalists were also on the current non-black list.

However, the news on cancellation of black-listed people by Burmese government may not overwhelm the reports about rampant civil war in Kachin State.

Since May 14 heavy battles continued rampant across Kachin land between Kachin Independent Army and Burmese government’s armed forces. KIA’s 10th Battalion under 1st Brigade has fought against Burmese Army’s 382nd LIR between Hpare village and Wa Chyawn village KIA sources say 10 Burmese soldiers were killed in action during this encounter, according to Kachinland News.

The civil war between Kachin Independence Army and government armed forces has become more ruthless since daily warfare spreads out even in formerly peaceful areas. Behind the scene of reforms, government’s soldiers have systematically stepped up its offensive war to a new level, quoting a local Kachin political observer, Kachin News Group (KNG) said.

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Refugees take shelter in a camp in Myitkyina, Kachin State, Burma, in December 2011. (Pic: AP)

Fighting has heaped on in jade-land Hpakant Township and as a result more than 10,000 civilians have been added up to existing 80,000 internally displaced persons. Local villagers fleeing from battle zones have flooded Church compounds and monasteries in Hpakant and Seng Tawng city.

There are about 30,000 IDPs in Burmese government controlled areas and about 60,000 IDPs are currently taking refuge in KIO controlled areas. Several hundreds of civilians continue escaping their native places because they are scared of bullets, bombs, forced labors, rape, torture and other forms of violence.

In a recent Burma Army offensive against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Hpakant Jade Land, at least 30 government soldiers were killed. Heavy combating proceeded for over five hours in the area between Seng-Ja-Bum Mountain and the Gwi-Hka jade mine, said a KNG reporter in the jade mining region.  There were no KIA casualties in the fighting, according to KIA’s 6th Battalion source.

As reported by a KNG reporter on 29 August, skirmishing between the government troops and the KIA has been going on in two mining villages of Maw-Mau-Bum and Myauk-Hpyu in Hpakant.  Some civilian homes were burnt by shelling from the Burmese soldiers, said eyewitnesses.  Fighting had occurred in the area since 27 August.

On 29 August, government troops ordered the evacuation of 11 jade mining villages in Hpakant, said people in the jade mines. Government troops instructed residents and miners to gather all their belongings and leave immediately.

The announcement was broadcasted over loudspeakers in jade mining villages, such as Maw Mau Layang, Maw Mau Bum, Nba La Hka, Tawng Phyu, Myawk Pyu, Sharaw Hka, Seng Ja Bum, Mana Maw, Kalaw Maw, Pyi Chawng, and Maw Wan Kalay, according to miners. Since this morning, hundreds of miners and native Kachin residents have begun returning home from the evacuation.

According to the local eyewitnesses, the Burmese army has cruelly attacked Kachin villages, destroyed homes, looted properties, and forced the displacement of tens of thousands of people. Soldiers have threatened and tortured civilians during interrogations and raped women. The army has also used anti-personnel mines. It continues recruiting forced laborers, including immature children on the front lines.

Recently, HRW called China to stop its forced returns of thousands of ethnic Kachin refugees to northern Burma, where they are at risk of Burmese army abuses, and lack of aid.

“China is flouting its international legal obligations by forcibly returning Kachin refugees to an active conflict zone rife with Burmese army abuses,” said Bill Frelick, Refugee Program director. “China should urgently change course and provide temporary protection for the refugees in Yunnan Province.”

There are over 85 camps of internally displaced people in Kachin State, housing an estimated 75,000 people, who lack adequate humanitarian aid. Approximately 16 of the camps, in KIO-controlled areas, are already home to at least 55,000 Kachin, and there are food shortages at some of those sites.

In June, Human Rights Watch released a 68-page report, “Isolated in Yunnan: Kachin Refugees from Burma in China’s Yunnan Province,” estimating that 7,000 to 10,000 Kachin refugees and asylum seekers were in squalid, improvised camps in Yunnan that were largely isolated from international humanitarian aid due to restrictions imposed by the Chinese authorities. Most of the refugees had fled wartime abuses in Burma such as forced labor, killings, rape, and torture by the Burmese army, or the threat of abuses.

“Adding thousands more Kachin to the camps in Burma will only compound the crisis for internally displaced people in Kachin State,” Frelick said.

“President Thein Sein urgently needs to let the aid agencies reach everyone who needs their help,” Bill Frelick, Refugee Program director.

If President Thein Sein’s government has an authentic political reform scheme to promote the country, the first thing it must to do is to end the war in Kachin state unilaterally by all means. Human Rights Watch called on the Burmese government to ask the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to establish an office in Burma with a standard protection, promotion, and technical assistance mandate.