Kachin women speak out against atrocities happening in Burma’s newest conflict

We were so excited this morning to hear the news of the Nobel Peace Prize this year being awarded to women who have fought for peace and an end to autocratic rule. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman are extraordinary people – and by awarding the prize to them, the Nobel Committee is helping to show that world that women are a vital part of a nations’ future.

It is fitting then that today that a prominent Kachin women’s organization, KWAT, released a new report that documents the ongoing atrocities being committed by the Burma Army against the women and children of Kachin State, Burma. The women of Burma, from all ethnic groups, have repeatedly shown how they are powerful and crucial players in helping their communities and bringing real peaceful change to the country.

Their press release is powerful, and strongly points out how the international community’s “wait and see” policy with Burma is creating horrific consequences for the women and children of Kachin State.

Below is their press release, read the report here:

“In its new war against Kachin resistance forces, Burma’s regime has deliberately targeted civilians with killings, torture and sexual violence, displacing over 25,000 people during the past four months.

“Burma’s Covered Up War: Atrocities Against the Kachin People” by the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT) documents atrocities committed by the Burma Army since it broke a 17 year ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) on June 9. Women and children have suffered some of the worst crimes, including rape and sexual violence. 37 women and girls were raped during the first two months of the conflict; 13 of these were killed.

“Our documentation team was deeply shocked at the details of these crimes. Some women were gang-raped in front of their families. In one case, soldiers slaughtered a woman’s grandchild in front of her before raping and killing her also,” said KWAT spokesperson Shirley Seng,.

Atrocities have escalated since the regime expanded its offensive in September, deploying over 1,000 troops from nine battalions to seize Kachin strongholds in northern Shan State. On September 24, three separate rape incidents by Burma Army troops occurred in Muse and Kutkai townships, Shan State, involving two girls, aged 14 and 17, and one woman, aged 40.

Thousands of villagers from Kutkai have been displaced in recent weeks, but denied refuge in China and unable to access camps in KIA-controlled areas of Kachin State, have dispersed to towns, other villages and jungle hiding sites.
Over 25,000 villagers already sheltering in makeshift camps along the Kachin-China border are facing severe shortages of food and medicine, as the regime has blocked agencies working officially inside Burma from assisting them. Appeals to foreign governments to address this humanitarian crisis have so far fallen on deaf ears.

KWAT is urging the international community to abandon its “wait and see” policy with Burma, bring increased pressure on the regime to end its military offensives and atrocities, and provide urgently needed humanitarian assistance to the displaced Kachin.

“It was “wait and see” that let the regime start this new war against the Kachin. It is “wait and see” that is letting them carry on attacking women and children. “Wait and see” is a death sentence for us”, said Shirley Seng.”

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