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BNI/KNG: Kachin civil society groups say Suu Kyi should condemn army abuses

Kachin civil society groups say Suu Kyi should condemn army abuses (click to view article)

A coalition of 16 civil society groups issued a joint statement this week urging Aung San Suu Kyi and her fellow parliamentarians in the National League for Democracy to "raise their voices against the ongoing human rights abuses against the Kachin civilians”. The statement declared it was “their duty to protect every citizen of the Union”.

The letter was sent days after government armed forces launched a full scale attack, involving jet planes, helicopters and artillery fire, on the Kachin Independence Organization's (KIO) Laiza headquarters. Three people were killed by the offensive; one of which was a child.

The shelling on Jan. 14, killed Assistant Pastor Malang Yaw, 65, Nhkum Bawk Naw, 40 and Hpauyu Doi San Awng, 14. Four other civilians, including two young children, were injured during the attack.

Shortly after news of the deadly incident broke, Aung San Suu Kyi told reporters in Naypyidaw that she wants a ceasefire between the KIO and Burma's government. "I don't like any kind of war or violence ... I have always said that we should negotiate among ourselves so that there is no need to fight like this…We will only be able to avoid such conflicts if we begin to practice a culture of negotiation." But the Nobel Peace winner didn’t condemn the army's slaying of civilians.

Publically, Burma's famous opposition leader has had very little to say about the Kachin conflict and the army’s behavior since the 17-year ceasefire unraveled on June 9, 2011. Some Kachin civil society groups have criticized Suu Kyi's silence; finding it disturbing.

The open letter signed by several groups, including; the Kachin National Organization- United Kingdom (KNO-UK), the All Kachin Students and Youth Union (AKSYU) and the Kachin Women's Association of Thailand (KWAT), condemned the army's ongoing offensives on Laiza and called for an international investigation on the civilians killed in January.

“We would like to highlight the total lack of consideration for international humanitarian law by the Burmese military, including Geneva Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which states in its article 27 that protected persons are entitled, in all circumstances, to respect for their persons, their honour, their family rights, their religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs,” the letter said.

It’s unclear if the international community will support a full scale UN investigation into the human rights abuses committed during the conflict. A day after the civilians were killed London based Amnesty International issued a press release calling for Burmese authorities to investigate the causes of the deaths.

“We urge the Myanmar authorities to immediately launch an investigation into the attack on 14 January and to determine if international laws of war were violated,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s deputy Asia-pacific director in a statement released by group.

Amnesty International stopped short of calling for an international investigation into the killings; a stance likely to disappoint Kachin civil society groups, many of which don’t believe that Thein Sein's government can be trusted to conduct a proper investigation about its or army’s role the incident.