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For Immediate Release

New Report: Burmese Army Continues Committing Human Rights Violations in Kachin State

Secretary Clinton must focus on abuses against ethnic minorities during upcoming visit to Burma

Cambridge, Mass - 11/30/2011

PHR today released a report detailing human rights abuses committed by the Burmese Army in Kachin State, Burma. PHR’s investigation reveals that the much-publicized incremental political changes in central Burma have not translated into improvements for the ethnic populations in the remote areas of Burma. During Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Burma in December, PHR calls on her to focus on abuses against ethnic minorities.

In September, PHR conducted an investigation in Burma’s Kachin State in response to reports of grave human rights violations in the region. PHR found that between June and September 2011, the Burmese army looted food from civilians, fired indiscriminately into villages, threatened villages with attacks, and used civilians as porters and human minesweepers.

“These findings come at a crucial moment as the international community is considering increased engagement with Burma in response to its perceived progress toward democracy,” said Richard Sollom, PHR’s deputy director. “As the Kachin and other groups continue to endure heinous human rights violations at the hands of the Burmese army, the government’s rhetoric must begin to translate into human rights for all of the people of Burma.”

Key human rights findings of the report include:

  • The Burmese army forced Kachin civilians to guide combat units and walk in front of army columns to trigger landmines.
  • The Burmese army regularly pillaged food and supplies from civilians.
  • The Burmese army fired automatic weapons directly into a civilian village, striking non-military targets.

“This report sheds an important light on the brutal violations suffered every day by the people of Kachin State. While the rest of the world applauds Burma for ‘flickers of progress’ the ethnic minorities of Burma continue to endure human rights violations as they wait for true change,” said Shirley Seng, spokesperson for Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand.

The report also provides the first humanitarian assessment of some of the internally displaced people living in areas of Kachin State that are not controlled by the Burmese government.

PHR visited six camps and four shelters for displaced Kachin civilians on the Sino-Burmese border and conducted health and nutrition assessments. PHR’s investigation found that the camps fail to meet multiple minimum humanitarian standards outlined in the Sphere humanitarian guidelines, are overcrowded, and have an insufficient number of latrines and water supply points.

Sphere guidelines were established a decade ago by a group of aid organizations to ensure that displaced people have a right to life with dignity and that all efforts should be made to alleviate human suffering in the wake of disasters and conflict.

PHR welcomes an increase in humanitarian aid to Burma, including support to organizations operating within Burma. PHR also continues to call for a UN Commission of Inquiry to investigate the ongoing human rights abuses in Burma.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is an independent organization that uses medicine and science to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. We are supported by the expertise and passion of health professionals and concerned citizens alike.

Since 1986, PHR has conducted investigations in more than 40 countries around the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Sudan, the United States, the former Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe.

  • 1986 — Led investigations of torture in Chile gaining freedom for heroic doctors there
  • 1988 — First to document the Iraqi use of chemical weapons on Kurds providing               evidence for prosecution of war criminals
  • 1996 — Exhumed mass graves in the Balkans and Rwanda to provide evidence for               International Criminal Tribunals
  • 1997 — Shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines
  • 2003 — Warned US Policymakers on health and human rights conditions prior to and               during the invasion of Iraq
  • 2004 — Documented genocide and sexual violence in Darfur in support of international               prosecutions
  • 2010 — Investigated the epidemic of violence spread by Burma’s military junta
  • 2011 — Championed the principle of noninterference with medical services in times of               armed conflict and civil unrest during the Arab Spring
  • 2012 — Trained doctors, lawyers, police, and judges in the Democratic Republic of the               Congo, Kenya, and Syria on the proper collection of evidence in sexual               violence cases
  • 2013 — Won first prize in the Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention with MediCapt, our               mobile app that documents evidence of torture and sexual violence

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