Bangkok: A Human Rights Watch report released Tuesday says violence and ongoing rights abuses continue unabated in Myanmar's conflict-riddled northern Kachin State despite an
unprecedented reform campaign spearheaded by the country's
post-junta government elsewhere in the country, also known as
"There's still a long way to go before the people of
Burma, particularly those in conflict areas, benefit from
recent promises of reform," said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia
director at Human Rights Watch.
"The international community should not become complacent
about the serious human rights violations still plaguing" the
country, she said.
The dire situation in the remote region near the Chinese
border casts a shadow over the government's avowed commitment
to democratic change as it seeks an end to Western sanctions
and a greater international acceptance after years as a pariah
Government officials in Myanmar could not immediately be
reached for comment.
After half a century of military rule, Myanmar's army
ceded power last year to a nominally civilian government
dominated by retired army officers and members of the former
Since then, President Thein Sein has surprised Western
governments by making several dramatic changes, including
opening up next month's by-elections to the opposition,
releasing hundreds of political prisoners, signing truces with
rebel groups and easing restrictions on the media.
But the fighting in Kachin State, which broke out for the
first time in nearly two decades last June, stands in stark
contrast to those widely praised developments.
Skirmishes have continued despite a call by Thein Sein for
the army to cease fire and repeated efforts to broker
negotiate a peaceful settlement.
Human Rights Watch documented unlawful killings, and said
soldiers have threatened and tortured civilians during
interrogations for information about insurgents.
It said the army has forced men as old as 70 to carry out
manual labor at gunpoint, and conscripted teens as young as 14
to serve on the front line.
Troops have also "deliberately and indiscriminately fired
on Kachin civilians with small arms and mortars," sometimes
simply to force people to flee, the rights group said.
Human Rights Watch staff traveled to Kachin State twice in
the second half of 2011, visiting nine displaced camps and
interviewing more than 100 people, including one man forcibly
held as a porter by soldiers for 19 days.
First Published: Tuesday, March 20, 2012, 12:52