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Army steps up Kachin campaign

Rights group says 20,000 displaced in latest hostilities

Mike McLachlan, London
United Kingdom

October 5, 2011

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More than 20,000 civilians have been displaced as a result of a renewed offensive by the Myanmar government in Kachin state, according to a London-based rights group. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said on Monday it was “deeply concerned” at reports it has received from Kachin sources. In the past two months, CSW says, the army has repeatedly attacked Kachin villages and civilians have been taken for forced labor, raped, tortured or killed. “At the same time,” CSW said, “President Thein Sein has met democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, called for peace talks with ethnic nationalities, and responded to popular opinion by suspending plans for a major dam project at Myitsone, Kachin State, worth over £2 billion [US$3.08 billion].” CSW cites a number of recent incidents. On August 20, it says, soldiers stationed in a village in Man Si township fired mortars at a neighboring village, killing a six-year-old child in the village schoolteacher’s house and wounding the teacher, her daughter, aged seven, and two other children. On September 16, twelve Kachins aged between 14 and 70 were accused of supporting the Kachin Independence Army. They were arrested and tortured before being released three days later, CSW said. The soldiers involved in the incident at Namhpathka village, Momauk township, were from Light Infantry Unit 387, sources told CSW. On September 21, a villager and his wife, both aged 24, were seriously injured by landmines while collecting bamboo on a hillside near Jahtuzup, Phakant township. The woman lost a leg. The mountain where the incident took place houses a Catholic shrine, CSW said. The chairman of the Kachin Independence Organisation’s (KIO) central committee, Lanyaw Zawng Hra, wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last week saying: “The civil war … directly affects regional development and the stability of neighboring countries as well. “Therefore the KIO is humbly calling for all stakeholders and international communities, such as the United Nations, ASEAN and our bordering countries to help us find a solution.” CSW’s East Asia team leader, Benedict Rogers, said: “The escalation in attacks is in marked contrast to the regime’s rhetoric about peace, and the signs of change that may be seen in other aspects of Burmese politics. “If the regime is genuine, it must match rhetoric with action.” Related reports: Church increases Kachin refugee aid Kachin Catholics pray for village's future
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