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Not only Rohingyas: Myanmar army mounting a security crackdown against an ethnic minority in north of country

MYANMAR (OBSERVATORY) – The Associated Press reported that while the eyes of the world are still facing the suffering of the Muslims of the Rohingya, another old armed conflict in northern Myanmar has witnessed a marked escalation of tension in recent months

The agency said in a report published today that the talk about the minority ethnic Kachin ethnic majority, adding that the escalation of one of the oldest and most forgotten conflicts in the world has resulted in the displacement of at least 10,000 people since last January, according to the United Nations.

The agency confirmed that the Myanmar army bombed the positions of the “Kachin Rescue Army” along the lines of contact between the parties, while displaced refugees in the camps set up hideouts of sacks of sand and stones.

The minority has accused Myanmar government forces of waging a “genocide” against them, with rebels still controlling mountainous areas along the border with China.

The Kachin minority began the struggle for greater independence in the Buddhist-majority country in 1961, and the dispute continues in a broader conflict in which ethnic minorities in Myanmar compete with the parliamentary majority for influence.

The Kachin Salvation Army has held more than one meeting with army representatives, but they have rejected a truce agreement because the government has not recognized several groups associated with them. They have not recognized the country’s new constitution, which was passed in 2008 and gives the military broad powers.

Fighting between the army and the minority in the region resumed in 2011, amid mutual accusations by the two parties to blow up the 17-year-old truce, and since then government forces have gained control of about 200 rebel positions.

The United Nations has recently received reports of abuses by the Myanmar security forces against representatives of the minority, including looting, rape, extrajudicial executions and enforced forced labor, while restricting humanitarian access to about 120,000 refugees in the provinces of Kachin and Shan, However, part of the humanitarian assistance is ultimately in the hands of the rebels.

The Associated Press reported that the leaders of “Kashin” appealed to the government last week to allow the delivery of medical assistance to two thousand civilians, including children and pregnant women, but received no response to this call.

A spokesman for the Myanmar presidency, Zaw Hatay, acknowledged human rights violations in the region, stressing that both sides bear responsibility for them, and renewed the government’s call to the armed groups for a ceasefire.

This came against the backdrop of the Rohingya Muslims, where Rakhine State has seen violence since the end of last August during a security operation launched by the army after a series of attacks on its positions by the so-called “Rescue Army Rohingya.”

According to official figures, 414 people were killed, but Médecins Sans Frontières reported that 6.7 thousand people died during the first month of unrest alone.

These events resulted in the displacement of some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to neighboring Bangladesh.