Military offensive displaces thousands in Myanmar

Rights groups accuse Myanmar army of major displacements, sexual harassment, arbitrary homicide

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

There have been eight documented cases of sexual violence committed by Myanmar’s army against Shan women since April 2015.[AFP]

Human rights groups in Myanmar claimed thousands of people have been forced to flee after soldiers fired at civilians and raped women in a military offensive against ethnic rebels in six villages in the country's east.

Eight reports of sexual abuse have been reported since April 2015 by the Shan Human Rights Foundation, including a report of a 32-year-old woman who was raped by ten soldiers after her husband was tied up by them under their farm hut in Ke See township.

Three people have been injured and 17 villagers have remained missing since October 6 due to the army firing on civilians.  

"We are very concerned that there has been no public condemnation by the international community about these war crimes and these attacks on civilians," said Charm Tong who is one of the founders of Shan Women's Action Network (SWAN).

The Myanmar government has not replied to requests for comments on the issue.

Ethnic clashes in Myanmar have opened the way to the displacement of droves of people for decades, with most of them fleeing to neighbouring country Thailand.

A ceasefire between the government and eight armed ethnic groups had been signed in October. However, seven of the 15 groups decided not to sign it.

"We have concerns about the humanitarian crisis that is generated by the fighting. We also have concerns that the fighting could set back the effort to build out a nationwide ceasefire to include non signatories," US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel said following his meeting with Myanmar armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing.

"While there are two sides to the conflict, I urged the Burmese military to exercise restraint and to work in an effort to promote reconciliation and peace," he added.

The United Nations is also concerned about the situation in Myanmar after 6000 people made applications to monasteries and temporary shelters, according to Pierre Peron, a spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Peron said the UN and aid groups are cooperating to assist the displaced people.

"A UN-led team managed to visit some of the displaced people last week. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and are ready to provide further support as soon as security conditions allow," Peron said.

Ocha said on Friday that 1,200 people, including 500 children, have been displaced so far due to ongoing battles between the government and ethnic rebels in the Kachin state.

TRTWorld and agencies