3 killed, 7 wounded by Burmese air strike in Kyaukme



Burmese military fighter jets killed three villagers and injured seven others in a bombing mission in Kyaukme Township, northern Shan State, the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) said in statement released today.

Photo by SHRF- Nang Khin Than Nu was injured by Burmese army air strike.
According to SHRF, the air strike took place in Pang Mark Mur village on December 26 last year. It said that Burma’s Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 506 used jets to attack the village.

“A bomb landed directly on the house of [villager] Lung Jeak Da, killing three men instantly, including Lung Jeak Da, and injuring two women, a 5-year-old boy, and another man. A cow was also killed,” read the statement. “Three bombs landed around the village monastery, injuring four monks sheltering under the temple building. Apart from the monastery, altogether 16 houses in the village were damaged by the bombing.”

Monday’s report said that Burmese soldiers buried the bodies of the deceased immediately upon entering the village.

“The troops did not let the villagers hold a proper funeral ceremony,” said the statement. “The bodies were simply wrapped in mats and buried.”

Sai Hor Hseng, the spokesperson for SHRF, emphasised that human rights abuses, including killings and the destruction of private property, continue to occur across Shan State, particularly in the northern region.

“The government should take responsibility for these people’s losses,” he said. “Since this incident, there has been no report about support from the government. Only local charity groups are helping the victims,” he said.

“Villagers are intimidated and afraid as the Burmese army is still stationed in their village.”

Sai Hor Hseng noted that Yanghee Lee, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights, is currently on an official visit to Burma, but that Shan State is not included on her itinerary.

He said that the Korean diplomat’s report on the human rights situation in the country will not accurately portray the abuses in Shan State.

Shan Herald has reported throughout the past month that hostilities between government armed forces and ethnic armed groups have compelled hundreds, if not thousands, of families to flee their homes.




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To Hopeland and Back, the 25th trip



(8-11 January 2017)

This time even before the journal on the 24th trip was properly finished, I was back in Burma/Myanmar again.

And since the strategic planning meeting, due 9 January, was postponed at the request of two signatory organizations, there was only a few other informal meetings left for me to attend.

As usual no individuals, organizations and places will be named so I don’t end up killing the goose that is laying a golden egg for all of us each day.

Day One. Sunday, 8 January 2017

A great country is like the lowland toward which all streams flow.
Hence, if a great country can lower itself before a small country, it will win over the small country;
And if a small country can lower itself before a great country, it will win over the big country.
The one wins by stooping; the other by remaining low.
Tao The Ching, Chapter 61,
John C.H.Wu translation

The government Peace Commission and the
 United Wa State Army, including vice chairman
 Xiao Mingliang, in Panghsang on Dec 30, 2016. / UWSA / Facebook
My arrival in Hopeland is followed by mutual updates of information with friends. As always, I have much to learn from them, most of whom are younger, energetic and eager for peace.

Here are some of the things I have learned and would like to share with all:

§  During the December visit to Panghsang (officially, Pang-Kham), the United Wa State Army (UWSA) reportedly for the first time spoke about signing the NCA. Their problem however was with the DDR (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration) which, according to the Tatmadaw’s presentation at the (31 August-3 September 2015) 21st Century Panglong, must come first. U Thein Zaw, the government’s chief representative, was able to relieve their worry by convincing them that although the DDR first is the Tatmadaw’s expressed wish, what is certain is that the EAOs would implement the DDR only at the 7th and final phase of the NCA roadmap.

For those who are unfamiliar with the NCA, an official translation of the political roadmap in the NCA is reproduced here:

 The political roadmap

20. The Republic of the Union of Myanmar Government and the Ethnic Armed Organizations shall abide by the following political roadmap:

a)      Signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement
b)      Drafting and adopting the “Framework for Political Dialogue” by representatives of the Government of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and the Ethnic Armed Organizations.
c)       Holding national political dialogue based on the adopted Framework for Political Dialogue, and negotiating security reintegration matters and undertaking other necessary tasks that both parties agree can be carried out in advance.
d)      Holding the Union Peace Conference.
e)      Signing the Pyidaungsu Accord.
f)       Submitting the Pyidaungsu Accord to the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw for ratification.
g)      Implementing all provisions contained in the Pyidaungsu Accord, and carrying out security reintegration matters.

(According to the 36 resolutions attached to the NCA, “security reintegration matters” means SSR ‘security Sector Reform’ and DDR)

The Wa leadership then proposed a visit to Naypyitaw to present a 7 point proposition to the State Counselor and the Commander-in-Chief, if possible, before the Chinese New Year (28 January).

Note To this date, the visit is yet to take place.

§  Relationship between the SD and the CinC has yet to improve, despite a meeting in November. which produced a statement eulogizing the Tatmadawmen. “When the hero and the heroine are locking horns against each other,” says a friend, “anything can happen, like beating somebody up just to spite the spouse.” That, several express concern, may adversely affect the peace process.
§  One encouraging but unconfirmed report is that the CinC was not reacting negatively to the idea of constituent states having their own constitution, after the inter governmental workshop on federalism was held on 13-15 December.
“If he’s going to go along with another one: The Right of Self Determination, that is the right to exercise three political powers (executive, legislative, and judiciary) in accordance with the agreed common principles for the Union constitution, the rest will be plain sailing,” comments an academic. “Because other principles are just Ta-Nwe-Ngin-Tazin-Pa (Pull one string of the creeper and the rest will come along).”
§  The problem is that none in the room is sure whether or not the Union Peace Conference (UPC) #3, aka 21st Century Panglong (21CP) #2, is going to take place in February at all.
Apart for the “lover’s tiff” between the SC and the CinC, there is fighting up in the north, where China and Wa are suspected of involvement, and the UNFC saying if it is invited only as observers it won’t come. Economy is yet another “big,big headache,” calling for prompt action. “She needs some notable achievements,” says one. “Right now, there isn’t anything to show.”
§  Interestingly, there is difference of opinion as to how powerful the CinC is:  In 2011, when he was pulled up from the bottom of several other senior generals to become the Senior General by the outgoing Senior General Than Shwe, it was clear, he was entirely dependent on “the Old Man” to be able to command. But some think the situation has changed. “He has removed most of the officers senior to him throughout the past 4 years and replaced them with his own men,” says one. “Today, if U Than Shwe speaks 100 words to him, I’ll be surprised if he listens to more than 10 of them.”
Others however point out that incidents like the overthrow of U Shwe Mann, and later, U Thein Sein, as heads of the USDP, followed by the appointment of Gen Myint Swe as Vice President, wouldn’t have come about without personal intervention by the former strongman.

All in all, everything seems to be hanging in the balance, some are betting that there’ll be no UPC 21 next month.


One bright side is that the National level political dialogues (ND) is starting to take place, beginning with the PaOs and Karens. The Shans and others are due to follow soon. “We will know what our people want it said, whether or not there is a Panglong in February,” declares a Karen friend. 


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AUNG SAN SUU KYI IS A DISGRACE



There is an idea, widespread in some quarters, that criticizing Aung San Suu Kyi helps the military dictatorship - that it plays into the generals’ hands. This idea is false. The reason it is false is because it is based on an incorrect assumption, that Suu Kyi is part of the Burma pro-democracy movement.



(The underlying value is that in support of unity, we shouldn’t criticize other members of the movement, even if we disagree with their tactics.)

Suu Kyi is not - more accurately, she is no longer - part of the democracy movement. Amazingly, while she may head a government in which a majority of the MPs were democratically elected, she herself acts as a dictator. She personally sets all policy. Everyone in her party, the NLD, including in Parliament, must follow her lead. Notably, she has blocked any consideration of Burma’s most important issues, including the genocide against the Rohingya, the Civil War in the North, and ethnic questions more generally. Indeed, the last reflects her long-standing lack of cooperation with the ethnic resistance groups. She avoids contact with ethnic nationality representatives (and activists more broadly), so much so that it is as if she considers them the enemy. She has also appointed
many members of the military regime to critical government positions. And, she has purged the NLD, both in the past and since the 2015 general election, of officials who dare to challenge her authority.

More fundamentally, Suu Kyi is not part of the democracy movement because she rejects its basic premise. A “movement” means opposition, in support of a cause. Movement members act to change what they view as wrong, and their actions involve both risk and sacrifice. In Burma, the movement opposes the dictatorship, starting with its security organs the Tatmadaw and the police, because it has perpetrated so many crimes and caused so much suffering.

Suu Kyi had a choice when she assumed formal power (beginning with her election as an MP in the 2012 by-election). She could stand against the regime, or join it. She chose the latter. Suu Kyi’s government does not oppose the dictatorship, even through the mildest of criticisms. Instead, she is actively working to cover up its crimes (most obviously through her office’s Information Committee).

The situation in Burma now is astonishing. Glowing reports about new economic deals notwithstanding, it is falling apart. There are so many things going wrong: The land thefts; the blockade on freedom of speech, starting with for the media; the new political prisoners, including those prosecuted under the notorious 66(d) provision in the telecommunications law, it just goes on and on. The Rohingya repression and the Civil War, though, have an entirely different character. They are crises.

65,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since October. The stories of the genocide - the village destruction, slaughter and rapes - are undeniable. The Burma Army is even kidnapping Rohingya girls to keep as sex slaves. What Suu Kyi’s beloved Tatmadaw is doing is despicable beyond belief.

For the Civil War, the Army has engaged in unprecedented escalation. It has never before attacked from the air as it is doing now, on a daily basis, with helicopters and jets. The war in Northern Burma is at such a level that it is the most active conflict in the world after Syria and Iraq. The day-to-day aggression against the Northern Alliance, and the Rohingya, exceeds even the actions of the Taleban in Afghanistan.

Because of Suu Kyi’s censorship, there is virtually no media coverage. Even more, the silence from U.S. and European diplomats is solely due to her. They look to her for guidance. If she acts like something isn’t a problem, then they can safely ignore it, too.

Suu Kyi had her puppet, President Htin Kyaw, spout pro-dictatorship propaganda at this month’s “Independence Day” observance. He said that the country has been a Burman empire for ages, which directly contradicts the fact that the Union of Burma only came into being through 1947’s Panglong Agreement. Then, to add insult to injury, he gave awards for bravery to Tatmadaw war criminals.

The ethnic nationalities need to think about all of this carefully. Suu Kyi and the generals have set a basic position that the ethnic peoples will always be second class citizens - subjects - of Burman rulers. According to Suu Kyi, the country is to have institutionalized racism, in perpetuity, not only against the Rohingya but against anyone who is not
Burman.

This means that the matters at hand extend well beyond the issue of the non-NCA signatories making their excuses not to attend the upcoming UPC. All the ethnic nationalities, including all the resistance armies, both signatory and non-signatory, and all the civil society groups, need to plan for a future with open, nation-wide conflict, and a situation where - as with Yugoslavia - only the breakup of the Union will bring peace.

Suu Kyi’s actions are destroying the viability of the Union of Burma. It is now possible that it will reach the point where the ethnic peoples will no longer be able to coexist with the Burmans.

Conclusion

What is happening in the country is Aung San Suu Kyi’s fault. She is part of the overall dictatorship. She never, ever should have surrendered, by ending the election boycott. She never should have agreed to the end of the sanctions. By doing all of this, she stabbed the Burma pro-democracy movement in the back.

Why has she acted this way? Why is her leadership so bad?

One explanation is that she is getting old. She was afraid that she would lose her chance at power. (Other possibilities include Stockholm Syndrome, or even that she is in the early stages of dementia.)

I think the deeper or core problem, though, is that she conflates herself with the nation. What is good for her is good for Burma, not what is good for Burma is good for her. She confuses the two, sees the world solely through her own self interest, which apparently is just to be a show leader in a country that is clearly still an absolute dictatorship. She goes to her meetings and thinks she is a big shot, and that Burma is normal. Since the genocide against the Rohingya and the Civil War mean that it is not normal, she has to ignore them, even deny them. Actually, she goes further. She swallows the dictatorship's lies. Maybe she really believes that the Rohingya are burning down their own homes and that all of the rape claims are false. Maybe she believes that the Sit-tut is "valiant," and that the Northern Alliance and UNFC are "insurgents." Maybe she believes "Burmans Uber Alles." Who knows. Who the hell cares!!! She is wrong. She has made the worst mistake imaginable, and she is too stubborn to admit it. She has made a deal with the devil, and now she is surprised that her own clothes are stained with blood. There is a simple fact. Burma will not be able to advance until Suu Kyi is gone. I'm not saying that it will advance when she is gone - the risks are profound - the dictatorship will of course continue to be brutal, the country may even split up. I'm just saying it cannot really and irreversibly get better until she is gone. She has personally blocked progress in an entire country for what is now going on 30 years.

Link story : http://www.dictatorwatch.org/prsuukyidisgrace.html


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Commentary on “Time for the NLD to change”



There is no arguing that the National League for Democracy (NLD) need to change.


But we should ponder on whether the micro-politics - formal and informal power by individuals and groups to achieve their goals in organizations - or macro-politics -decision making is conducted at district, state, and federal levels - is more essential to facilitate the "change" that the NLD had advocated as its “main campaign slogan” during its election campaign in 2015, in its Election Manifesto.

To be logical and also from the point of facilitating to get things done, of course, both are equally important. Still, this writer is of the opinion that “macro” political commitment or theoretical underpinning should take the lead; or should we say the "grand strategy" of the party in power has to be in place. In other words, the grand strategy of the NLD that it envisioned and how it would like to implement must be spelled out, as is the case in all democratic society.

Generally speaking, there are two major issues at hand that the NLD must tackle that are within the category of the macro-politics. One is rewriting the constitution and the other ending the civil war.

It goes without saying that meanwhile everybody knows that the root cause of the country is anchored in the amendment of the military-drawn, 2008 constitution, which is neither democratic nor federal in a true sense of the words . And in trying to address this, which is to fulfill one of its election campaign promises, the NLD has drawn back from its commitment by saying that the peace settlement must come first and only after that could the constitutional amendment be tackled. It has clearly put the issue on the back burner or should we say, going back on its campaign promises.

State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi's excuse of drawing back from the NLD's constitutional amendment with the pretext that it is a delicate matter and takes time is hardly encouraging for the electorates that have pinned their hope on her and the party she leads to usher in a speedy change.

Again regarding another crucial issue of ending the civil war which is the national reconciliation pledge, NLD has done next to nothing to withhold the Military or Tatmadaw on not to conduct offensives in ethnic areas. It is clear that the NLD is powerless, but from the moral and ethnic point of view and as a government, it has to take up position to show where it stands.

But this is not to say that the NLD or Suu Kyi is to be blamed for the past woes that have been carried into the era of her administration, as it is the “systemic problem” that has made the party so powerless. And by system problem, it is meant to say, the “constitutional crisis” that the NLD and the ethnic opposition groups have long identified.

In a nutshell, the military-drawn constitution is anti-democratic and as it is, it cannot usher the country into a democratic one, much less a genuine federal union. Thus, it is the main source of systemic problem. And if we cannot tackle this problem at its roots, the country's spiraling fall into abyss of civil war followed by chaos that we won't be able to stop.

The point is, if the NLD is unable to induce “change” as it has campaigned for, at least, it should be a leading “agent of change”.

Nobody is heaping the blame on NLD, but only as an agent of change, it is doing too little.

What the Frontier Myanmar Editorial urging of “The ideal place to start would be a review of the cabinet and the replacement of ministers who are not up to scratch,” is a positive suggestion, but the NLD would be better served, if it would play its role as an agent of change effectively., rather than just indulging in acts of appeasement by following the Tatmadaw's lead, especially where making war and offensives on ethnic homeland are concerned.

In sum, for the remaining legislature period of its administration, the NLD should put its energy on macro-politic management as an agent of change effectively and not unclear political positioning just to stay in power, which in anyway wouldn't be able to deliver on its campaign promises.

Link to the story : http://frontiermyanmar.net/en/time-for-the-nld-to-change


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Myanmar Media and Society Project Working Paper 1:2



Dear friends and colleagues,

With apologies for cross-posting, I'm very pleased to be sharing Working Paper 1:2 from the Myanmar Media and Society (M.MAS) Project, written by me, Matt Schissler, and Ma Phyu Phyu Thi.

"Failed riots: successful conflict prevention in four Myanmar cities" looks at cases where large-scale violence was seemingly averted by the actions of particular groups or individuals, trying to draw some insights for conflict de-escalation and peacebuilding in Myanmar. Please feel free to share it with anyone who might find it useful or interesting. As always, we welcome comments and feedback. We hope to have a Myanmar language version published soon.

You can download the paper  here .

A  Tea Circle post summarizes some of the main conclusions.

The M.MAS home page is here , providing updates on the project's current second phase.

With best regards,
Matt Walton


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Shans prepare for next ‘21st Century Panglong Conference’



Several Shan groups including political parties, civil society organizations and academics, will hold a meeting in late January in order to prepare for the 2nd round of national dialogue which is slated to be held in February.


The first round of the 21st-Century Panglong Peace Conference, known as the 21CPC, was led by Burma’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, and was held on  August 31 last year in the capital Naypyidaw.

Sai Lek, the spokesperson for the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), said this conference concerns every Shan nationality, and therefore their voices are needed.

“What the ethnic armed organizations (EAO) and political parties can do is raise the issues linked to ethnicity,” he said. “The issues we will be discussing include politics, economics, social welfare, and land and national resources. We have already discussed security issues.”

The meeting is scheduled to take place in Shan State capital Taunggyi from 23 to 27 January.

SNLD spokesperson Sai Lek, who also currently serves as general secretary for the Committee for Shan State Unity (CSSU), a group comprising Shan political parties, Shan armed groups and Shan civil society groups, said that in order to hold the conference in late January they will need to form at least 13 working groups in order to engage public consultations.

“There will be 13 groups. Each group will consist of 15 members which include a team leader and a financial manager,” he said, adding that each group will be expected to take a field trip to gauge public opinions. These public consultations will be held both inside and outside Shan State.”

He elaborated in detailing these areas of public consultation: two townships in eastern Shan State; three townships in northern Shan State; and four townships in southern Shan State. Outside the region, talks will take place, he said, in Mandalay, Moe Nyin in Kachin State, Homalin in Sagiang Division, Loi Kaw in Karenni State, and Chiang Mai, Thailand.

On 11-12 December last year, Shan leaders held a meeting in Taunggyi to begin drawing up plans for the 21CPC.



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To Hopeland and Back, the 24th trip



Day Nine-thirteen. Saturday-Wednesday, 17-21 December 2016

Troops, backed by jets and artillery, capture
Gideon outpost near Laiza. (AFP, 17 December)

I have breakfast with a Thai expert, who has been holding several technical workshops with a certain union ministry.
  
“I don’t know why I have been doing this,” he says. “Because they have yet to implement the lessons they have learned. When I asked them why, they told me they could do nothing until there was a directive from above. And there hasn’t been any.”

It seems I have been hearing the same story in different versions from other people.

Starting today, we are holding a 3-day strategic planning workshop. And as strategic plannings go, they mostly talk about one’s weaknesses, so ways may be found to overcome them.

Understandably, I’m not going to dwell on them much, not only because they are distasteful, but they also are supposed to be confidential. Except for the essentials, on a need-to-know basis.

So here we go:

§  The first step is to establish the main Aim (and what is behind it).
A constitutional change in accordance with NCA Article 1.a and Article 22.d before 2020 elections
§  The second step, according to the 9 step method outlined by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation/ Stiftung  (FNS), is to establish the facts, following by selections of strong points and weak points, both for others and yourself.

Here are some of the interesting points that the planners come across:

1.      The powers of the PPST chair are still unclear
2.      CT members wear too many hats
3.      The UPDJC seems to be depending too much on relationship orientation than principle orientation
4.      In the JMC, we have good relations at union level but poor relations in state and local levels, probably due to different interpretation of the NCA and the JMC ToR

During the three days of planning, the planners also focus on the strong points and weak points of the other side:

1.      For the Tatmadaw, its empire building mindset is both a strong point and a weak point
2.      The same for NLD, which despite being a party for democratization, is built upon “one blood, one voice, one command” discipline
3.      As for the 3 levels of legislature, ethnic parties are poorly represented. (They should try to win the most at state level, and at least 25% at union level, remarks one. “Then, both the military and the NLD will be forced to negotiate with them for any change they want to make.”)

Here are some of the interesting comments I overhear there:

§  The 2008 constitution assumes a human shape. But it still lacks the heart of a human being. This is what we must try to implant.

§  Federalism alone is not sufficient to roll back the role of dictatorship. We also need democratization to do that.

§  We should also try to make use of the present constitution to bring about change. Like, election of Chief Ministers, General Administrative Department (GAD) to be under state government, separate state finances, etc. Because complete change may take time.

§  Of the 5 Ms (Man-power, Material, Money, Management, and Morale), what we have is only the last M.

§  On 16 December, the State Counselor was reported to have said: Those who wield big power should also be big-hearted. But on the contrary, those who have big power don’t seem to have big hearts. If she really walks her talk, then there is hope for peace.

§  On our side, we have divided ourselves into two different camps: One is made up of risk takers and the other sure thing operators. The result is, like Michael Jackson’s famous moonwalk, we may be moving backward although we appear to be walking ahead. “That’s what I call ‘losing your way on a superhighway,’” quips one, who is the only guy in the room older than me.

§  According to one Chinese expert, it will be a long, long way to peace. So, to be on the safe side, the EAOs on the Chinese border who are still fighting against the government, will have to be tolerated so long as Beijing is unconvinced about Naypyitaw’s friendship.

Unfortunately, we don’t have time to complete the required steps. So 9 January is named the day for the next meeting.

For me, it means I leave for home the next day. Only this time, I’m flying to Tachilek, instead of Chiangmai, for I have a lot of friends, both old and new, whom I haven’t met since January 2015.


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China: Protect Ethnic Kachin Refugees Fleeing War in Northern Myanmar



Prevent forced returns, allow humanitarian agencies unfettered access to displaced communities


(YANGON, January 13, 2017)—The Government of China should ensure protection for thousands of ethnic Kachin civilians fleeing ongoing armed conflict in Myanmar and prevent forced returns, Fortify Rights said today. Chinese state security forces reportedly forced back to Myanmar approximately 4,000 Kachin civilians on January 11, a day after they fled to China to escape fighting in Myanmar’s Kachin State.

“China should provide asylum seekers with sanctuary, not send them into the line of fire,” said Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Fortify Rights. “The Myanmar military is effectively forcing civilians out of the country while China pushes them back in.”

On January 10, an estimated 4,000 civilians—the majority of whom are women, children, and the elderly—fled Myanmar military air strikes and heavy artillery attacks in the Nagyang area, which is close to Zai Awng/Mungga Zup and Hkau Shau IDP camps in  Kachin State. The Joint Strategy Team (JST)—a collective of nine local organizations—reported that villagers from Hkau Shau and displaced civilians from the two nearby internally displaced person (IDP) camps began to cross the border into China at approximately 4 a.m. on January 11. Fortify Rights received reports that Chinese state security forces initially allowed some families seeking asylum to cross into Chinese territory. Shortly after dawn on January 11, Chinese state security forces began turning back refugees at the border and forcibly returned all who had crossed earlier.

Representatives of the JST told Fortify Rights that an additional 2,500 IDPs residing in Maga Yang IDP camp near the Myanmar-China border are also preparing to flee in light of recent attacks. The JST will hold an urgent briefing on the humanitarian situation at 1 p.m. today in Yangon.

Given the escalating conflict in Myanmar and the lack of protection in China, there is a growing sense of insecurity among Kachin communities living in the conflict zone.

“We are not allowed to go into China,” a 20-year old displaced Kachin man living in Pa Kahtawng IDP camp near Maijayang town in Kachin State told Fortify Rights. “If a mortar falls in this camp and there is fighting around us, where will we flee? There will be nowhere for us to run. I’m afraid the Chinese government won’t accept us. Whenever there is fighting around here, the border is full of Chinese soldiers and they won’t allow anyone to pass.”

Fighting between the Myanmar military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA)—the primary ethnic armed opposition group operating in Kachin State—has displaced more than 23,000 people during the past several weeks. The JST reported that an estimated 2,560 IDPs fled Zai Awng IDP camp, north of Laiza, on December 27 after several mortar shells landed nearby. Similar attacks forced several hundred other displaced civilians to move from Mung Lai Hket IDP camp to Woi Chyai IDP camp in Laiza, the administrative capital of the KIA. In early December, the Myanmar military reportedly bombed churches, schools, and other non-military targets in northern Shan State during counter attacks against the Brotherhood of the Northern Alliance (BNA)—a coalition of four non-state ethnic armed groups, including the KIA. These attacks displaced 15,000 Kachin and Shan civilians, who likewise fled into China.

Myanmar authorities, including the civilian-led government, continue to effectively restrict humanitarian aid groups from operating freely in Kachin State and northern Shan State, resulting in avoidable deprivations of food, healthcare, and other humanitarian provisions for displaced communities.

“This is an abusive strategy. The Myanmar military is putting the squeeze on civilian populations, bombarding them with attacks while cutting off humanitarian aid,” said Matthew Smith. “Chinese authorities should do the right thing and provide protection.”

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee is currently in Myanmar on a 12-day monitoring mission and was in government-controlled areas of Kachin State while attacks continued closer to the China border. The Government of Myanmar denied the Special Rapporteur access to certain conflict-affected areas of Kachin and Shan states.

Fortify Rights calls on the Government of Myanmar to immediately grant the United Nations and international humanitarian aid groups free and unfettered access to all conflict-affected areas in Myanmar. Fortify Rights also calls upon the United Nations, international aid groups, and donor governments to redouble their support for Kachin-led relief efforts.  

Armed conflict has raged in Kachin and northern Shan states since June 2011, when the Myanmar Army attacked several KIA outposts near a hydropower dam financed and operated by a Chinese company, breaking a 17-year-long ceasefire agreement. More than 120,000 ethnic civilians are now displaced and residing in more than 170 displacement sites in Kachin and northern Shan states.

In February 2015, more than 50,000 ethnic Kokang fled into China from Myanmar military attacks in Shan State, and Chinese authorities provided them with food, medical supplies, and shelter. Since 2011, however, Chinese authorities have denied entry and forcibly returned thousands of ethnic Kachin civilians fleeing fighting between the Myanmar Army and KIA.

Returning asylum seekers to a conflict zone without properly assessing the risks is a violation of China’s obligations under international law, Fortify Rights said.

China is a state party to the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol. As a party to the Refugee Convention and Protocol, China is legally bound to facilitate the right to asylum and ensure protections for refugees. However, China has yet to enact legislation to properly assess asylum claims and ensure protections in line with international standards. China is further obligated under the principle of nonrefoulement, which is protected by customary international law, not to forcibly return refugees to places where their lives or freedom would be threatened.

“In the past few years, Chinese authorities pressured Myanmar to deny the U.N. and aid groups access to border areas, and Myanmar obliged,” said Matthew Smith. “Denying a sizable civilian population access to protection and aid is not only legally problematic, it’s also against the interests of Beijing and Naypyidaw.”


 
For more information, please contact:

Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer, +66 (0) 87.795.5454, 
Matthew.Smith@fortifyrights.org; Twitter: @matthewfsmith@FortifyRights
 
Amy Smith, Executive Director, +66 (0) 87.795.5454, 
Amy.Smith@fortifyrights.org; Twitter: @AmyAlexSmith@FortifyRights


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