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Rights violations 'still occurring'

Report says both sides in intractable conflict are guilty of abuses

Displaced Kachin refugees Displaced Kachin refugees
  • ucanews.com reporters, Yangon and Mandalay
  • Myanmar
  • March 22, 2012
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Government troops have murdered, tortured and raped villagers since fighting broke out against Kachin rebels in the northeast of the country last year, causing around 75,000 civilians to flee their homes, Human Rights Watch says.

In an 83-page report published this week, the New York-based rights group said  government soldiers have gunned down civilians, burned villages, raped women, and forced children as young as 14 to work as porters on the front lines.

HRW also accused Kachin Independence Army (KIA) rebels of exacerbating the conflict by using child soldiers and anti-personnel mines.

The HRW report was based on more than 100 interviews with displaced persons, refugees and victims of abuses, as well as Kachin rebels, government army deserters, and relief workers.

Khon Ja, an ethnic Kachin and human rights activist living in Yangon, said she was not surprised the report accuses both parties of violating human rights.

There have been many reports of troops forcing people to become porters and many children under 18, can be seen in the KIA’s ranks, she said yesterday.

She said there will always be right violations as long as there is conflict, including the raping of women.

The main problem is that the witnesses are the children, she said.

We have gathered evidence of violations and send it to the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, but we have had no reply yet, Khon Ja added.

She said lack of political will, awareness, and laws to protect civilians give combatants a sense of impunity.

“I think it will take at least 10 years to gain awareness and put in place measures to protect people’s rights under the law,” Khon Ja said yesterday.

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