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Joint Press Release from the Kachin Organizations/ Civil Society Groups

(11 July 2013) - We, Kachin civilians and activists from 30 organizations sent a letter to President Obama, Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Reid to renew the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, which will expire at the end of July 2013.

It is urgently needed to maintain pressure on the Burmese government to stop its policies of military aggression, and to begin a political dialogue to end the civil war in Burma.

In June 2011, the Burmese government broke its 17-year ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Organization, launching large-scale military operations throughout Kachin State and northern Shan State. Widespread human rights violations, including torture, extrajudicial killing and sexual violence, by Burmese troops have displaced over 100,000 civilians. Most of the displaced are sheltering in makeshift camps along the Chinese border, where the government continues to restrict humanitarian aid.

The war is continuing, even while the Burmese government is receiving accolades from the international community for bringing peace to the country. Despite ongoing ceasefire talks with the Kachin Independence Organization, Burmese government troops are continuing to launch attacks in Kachin areas.

In the past few weeks, there has been heavy fighting in northern Shan State where rubies are produced, displacing hundreds of civilians.

One of the root causes of the conflict is the issue of natural resources. Under the current constitution, the central Burmese government has total decision making power over the extraction and sale of natural resources in the ethnic states. Unless political dialogue is held to address key issues such as ownership and control of natural resources in the Kachin areas, the conflict and widespread suffering of our people will continue.

This is why pressure must be maintained on the Burmese government through continued sanctions to establish genuine peace in our country. Lifting of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act will send the message that the United States condones the Burmese government’s war against the Kachin and other ethnic minorities, and its unjust exploitation of resources in the ethnic states.


Contact person


Seng Zin (KWAT): + 66 (0) 846 142 330 (Thailand)
Gum San Nsang (Kachin Alliance): + 443 415 8683 (United State America)202-500-5076

Click to view PDF of press release

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Joint Letter from the Kachin Organizations/ Civil Society Groups

9 July, 2013

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House

The Honorable John A. Boehner
Speaker of the House
United States House of Representatives

The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader
United States Senate

Dear President Obama, Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Reid,

We, the undersigned 30 Kachin organizations, are writing to express our sincere support regarding the renewal of the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, which will expire at the end of this month.

Failure to renew the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act could result in an increase in human rights violations in mining areas, and will also have a negative impact on broader prospects for a ceasefire and dialogue to secure a permanent peace in Kachin state and the whole of Burma.

Significant areas of Kachin State and Northern Shan State, including mining areas, have suffered from renewed conflict which began in June 2011.

The United Nations and local organizations have documented numerous cases of human rights abuses, many of which violate international law, since the government of Burma broke the 17 years ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Organization.

The Human Rights Council resolution on Burma, passed in March 2013, described these abuses, including; arbitrary detention, forced displacement, land confiscations, rape and other forms of sexual violence, torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, as well as violations of international humanitarian law, violence, displacement and economic deprivation affecting persons belonging to national or ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities…armed conflict in Kachin State and the associated human rights violations and allegations of international humanitarian law violations, desecration of places of worship, sexual violence and torture.

The conflict has displaced over 100,000 civilians. Most of the displaced are sheltering in makeshift camps along the Chinese border, where the government continues to restrict humanitarian aid. The ‘2012 United Nations General Assembly resolution on Burma describes these restrictions as violations of international law.

Attacks by the Burmese Army have continued despite a recent agreement to try to de-escalate conflict.

One of the root causes of the conflict is the issue of natural resources. Under the current constitution, the central Burmese government has total decision making power over the extraction and sale of natural resources in ethnic states. This includes rubies and jade, which are mined in Kachin and some parts of Shan State. Rubies and jade mining concessions are granted solely by the central Burmese government, and rubies and jade is only officially allowed to be marketed in central Burma. The Kachin State government has no power to grant mining concessions or to organize the sale of rubies and jade within Kachin State. Profits from rubies and jade sales go directly to the central government, which continues to spend more than 20% of its budget on the military.

Since the 1994 ceasefire in Kachin State, the Burmese government has authorized large-scale rubies and jade mining in Hpakant, without any laws to protect local communities and the environment. This has led to widespread environmental devastation, and fuelled local anger against the central government. Since the breakdown of the ceasefire in 2011, heavy fighting has taken place in Hpakant, as Burmese troops have sought to secure control of the jade and rubies interests. Civilian targets were shelled, and 10,000 people were displaced in Hpakant alone. Despite no current fighting in Hpakant, the area remains highly militarized, and many of the displaced do not dare return home.

Failure to renew the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act will result in an increase in demand for rubies, jade and other gems and precious stones mined in Kachin State. In the current environment, this will have an immediate and negative impact on the ground, as the Burmese government and others seek to seize and control land and mines.

The prospect of huge profits to be made could encourage increased militarization and even fresh conflict as government forces seek to secure control of areas where mines are or where deposits may be. This will result in increased human rights abuses in these areas. Mines in the zones where there is conflict or has recently been conflict are also operating in an environment where there is no rule of law and no way for conditions to be externally monitored. Local people will be more vulnerable to land confiscation and other forms of exploitation. There will be no control over environmental destruction, which in turn results in loss of livelihoods and wildlife, and no protection for workers.

Increased militarization and conflict in mining areas would also destabilize the current fragile peace talks between the government and the Kachin Independence Organization.

Reforms in central Burma have already been richly rewarded, with many US sanctions already lifted and sanctions in Australia and the European Union lifted. In this context, for those arguing that ending the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act will be a reward which encourages further reform, failing to renew the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act is not necessary as ample reward has already been given. The benefits do not outweigh the risks of increased human rights abuses on the ground and the risk of increasing conflict and undermining fragile peace talks.

The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act also acts in a positive way as leverage which encourages the Burmese government to continue to engage in peace talks. The Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act helps promote peace and human rights. It applies pressure which encourages political dialogue to address key issues such as ownership and control of natural resources in the Kachin state and other ethnic nationality areas, where the root causes of the conflict and widespread suffering takes place.

The Kachin and the Americans fought side by side in World War Two. We fought and died side by side defending freedom and democracy. We are dying again defending freedom and fighting for democracy. Through the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act you have stood side by side with us again. Kachin fathers and brothers are being killed. Kachin mothers and sisters are being raped. Please don’t abandon us in our hour of need. Let us continue to be allies. Please renew the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act.

Your Sincerely,

1. All Kachin Student and Youth Union ( AKSYU )
2. Bridging Rural Integrated Development and Grassroots Empowerment (BRIDGE)
3. Houston Kachin Community, TX
4. Kachin Women Association Thailand ( KWAT )
5. Kachin Alliance (USA)
6. Kachin Development Organization ( KDG )
7. Kachin Development Network Group ( KDNG )
8. Kachin Canadian Association
9. Kachin National Organization (UK)
10. Kachin Literature and Culture Community
11. Kachin Catholic Community, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas
12. Kachin Development Foundation, Florida
13. Kachin Development Society of Nebraska
14. Kachin Culture and Literature Association of San Francisco Bay Area
15. Kachin Community of Indiana
16. Kachin Community, Los Angeles
17. Kachin Community of Louisiana
18. Kachin Community of Mississippi
19. Kachin Community of Tennessee
20. Kachin Christian Fellowship of Utah
21. Kachin Baptist Church of Georgia
22. Kachin Catholic Community, Austin, TX
23. Michigan Kachin Community
24. Mid-Atlantic Kachin Christian Fellowship
25. NINGTAWN, Kachin Education Support Group
26. New Zealand Kachin Community
27. Pennsylvania/New Jersey Kachin Fellowship
28. Phoenix Kachin Community, Arizona
29. United Kachin Association, Dallas, Texas
30. Washington Kachin Fellowship Committee

Contact Address:

Miss. Seng Zin (Kachin Women Association Thailand)– This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Mr.Gum San Nsang (Kachin Alliance) – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Click to view PDF of letter

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