KNG: Kachin activist to testify before US congress probing Burma army abuses

Kachin activist to testify before US congress probing Burma army abuses (click to view article)

A representative from the Kachin Women's Association of Thailand will appear before a US congressional hearing later today to testify about the Kachin conflict and its impact on civilians caught up in an increasingly bloody war.

Hkawng Seng Pan, KWAT's deputy coordinator will appear before a Congressional committee tasked with investigating international human rights abuses, the committee officially known as the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC) is holding the hearing to examine recent events in Burma.

Hkawng Seng Pan's appearance before Congress coincides with her organization's release of a report detailing widespread civilian casualties caused by the Burma army's offensive in Kachin areas in the north of the country.  The report entitled “State Terror in the Kachin Hills” documents the army's killing of women and children during the last 5 months of heavy offensives against the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).

According to the report, Burma army troops have repeatedly targeted civilian areas with heavy shelling and gunfire causing numerous deaths and great suffering amongst displaced civilians. The army abuses also include the torching of refugee camps sheltering more than 300 people on the Shan-China border near Kyukok (Pangsai) last November.

KWAT says that the humanitarian situation in Kachin and parts of north eastern Shan state remains extremely dire with 364 villages partially or completely abandoned and over 100,000 people internally displaced. Due to government restrictions little humanitarian aid has reached the more than 66,000 refugees languishing in territory controlled by the KIO.

KWAT wants the international community to respond to what it is says are crimes against humanity by putting more pressure on Burma's government and the army.  These calls come as most western nations have completely lifted financial and political sanctions against Burma's central government following a series of political reforms that have yet to materialize in Kachin state.

“Without international pressure, Burma’s government will continue using force to crush ethnic dissent,” says KWAT coordinator Moon Nay Li in statement that accompanies the report. “Even while the government is talking peace, they are launching war.”

Also appearing at the hearing in Washington will be several other Burma experts including Tom Malinowski, Washington Director, Human Rights Watch, Jennifer Quigley, Executive Director, U.S. Campaign for Burma and Tom Andrews, President of United to End Genocide. Two US government officials will also testify before the committee, Michael Posner, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor and Patrick Murphy, Acting Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma.

The hearing which is open to the public is scheduled for 1 PM on Thursday at Room 334 of the Cannon House Office Building.