14th February, 2012
Burmese troops are committing "grave human rights violations" against the predominantly Christian Kachin people, according to a new report from Christian Solidarity Worldwide.
The report, released on Sunday to mark Burma's Union Day - the 65th anniversary of the Panglong Agreement under which the Burmese Government accepted full autonomy in internal administration in 'frontier areas' and envisaged the creation of a Kachin State - concluded that while "a window of opportunity for change in Burma after decades of oppression and conflict may have now opened,” the situation in Kachin and northern Shan States illustrated that “there is still a very long way to go”.
"The accounts of torture and other abuses are a cause for very grave concern, and the humanitarian challenges facing the internally displaced people require an urgent and sustained response from the international community.”
“There are clear signs of change in Burma, such as the release of significant numbers of political prisoners and the decision by Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy (NLD) to contest parliamentary by-elections, which we should welcome and encourage," says Benedict Rogers, CSW’s East Asia team leader.
"However, the evidence we heard from Kachin people was among the worst we have ever heard. A very high proportion of the people we interviewed had family members killed by the Burma Army. These were unarmed civilians, in their paddy fields or homes, who were not engaged in armed combat in any form. The accounts of torture and other abuses are a cause for very grave concern, and the humanitarian challenges facing the internally displaced people require an urgent and sustained response from the international community.”
Mr Rogers urged the Burmese Government to build upon reforms by amending the constitution, repealing unjust laws and making a "sincere effort" to begin a political process that results in a "mutually acceptable political solution for all the people of Burma".
"The spirit of Panglong was based on equal rights for all the ethnic nationalities, a degree of autonomy, and respect for ethnic identity, within the Union of Burma. We urge President Thein Sein to recapture that spirit today, and we call on the international community to develop a balanced response, recognising and encouraging progress while maintaining pressure for real change.”
CSW representatives were in Kachin State as the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) held a first round of peace talks with the Burmese Government.