ETHNIC minorities will continue to suffer in Myanmar while it has a military dictatorship that wants to wipe them out, a representative of minorities from the north of the country has said in London.
Francis Zau Tu, a human-rights defender, said that “ethnic cleansing” was going on in Kachin and Shan states. “The people have been suffering for 60 years since the end of colonial rule. Rape, sexual violence, torture, and arbitrary arrest are just some of the human-rights abuses that have been meted out. The military and government make ethnic people seem wicked, and want to wipe them out. We will continue to suffer and flee unless we kick out the military dictatorship. Otherwise, generation to generation will suffer, as it already has.”
He is one of a group of six religious leaders, human-rights defenders, and activists representing the Kachin, Shan, and Ta’ang ethnic nationalities in Myanmar who travelled to London this month to press the case for action against its government.
In August, a report by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar took the unprecedented step of naming six military commanders who should face prosecution, but said that this list was “not exhaustive”. It called on the UN Security Council to refer the findings to the International Criminal Court (News, 31 August).
Its publication came at the end of an 18-month fact-finding mission into alleged human-rights abuses, after the flight of more than 700,000 Muslim-minority Rohingya from Myanmar to Bangladesh in August last year.
Crimes documented in Kachin, Shan, and Rakhine states include murder, imprisonment, torture, rape, sexual slavery, persecution, and enslavement, which “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law. Rape and other forms of sexual violence were perpetrated on a massive scale . . . part of a deliberate strategy to intimidate, terrorise, or punish a civilian population, and are used as a tactic of war.”
Julia Marip, of the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand, said: “We see human-rights violations by the state and the military, and we think they are crimes against humanity. There needs to be accountability for these actions. Burma does not allow the UN team into the country, who would be monitoring human-rights violations; so my organisation has to meet them in Thailand, Indonesia, and Geneva.
“I joined this trip to make the international community aware that the peace process is not working, especially for some ethnic groups. . . What ethnic groups really want is a federal political system; the current peace process is working towards a unitary system.”
The delegation also met the Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Southwark, the Rt Revd Patrick Lynch. The majority in Kachin state is Christian.
Fr Paul Lahpai Awng Dang, an RC priest from Kachin state, said: “As the people suffer, the Church has also suffered. We cannot stay blindfolded: we are seeing the atrocities in Shan state. The special task that we have considered for oppressed people is getting justice and assisting with social support.”
CSW’s East Asia Team Leader, Benedict Rogers, said: “It has been a privilege to cohost this distinguished group of religious and ethnic representatives from northern Burma. . . We call on the international community to pay attention to human-rights violations in the entire country, and we urge action to end impunity, ensure accountability, and allow humanitarian aid to those who need it.”