To support easy access to information on the peace process and the conflict & displacement situation in Burma, Burma Link is centralising the information and publishing monthly updates based on reports by local and international media and organisations.
For acronyms, go to https://www.burmalink.org/background/acronym-dictionary/.
- This month, the Burma government announced that demonstrations are now banned in 11 of the most densely populated Yangon townships.
- Armed conflict between the BA and EAOs has been on the rise, with numerous clashes reported between the KIA and BA in Kachin and Northern Shan States, and the AA and the BA in Chin State.
- The third 21CPC was announced to take place during the final week of January 2018.
- While a formal meeting between the FPNCC and the government has yet to take place, the UNFC and the PC have reported making steady progress towards agreeing on the UNFC’s eight-point proposal to signing the NCA.
- In response to the ongoing Rohingya refugee crisis and allegations of severe human rights abuse by the BA, US Secretary Rex Tillerson formally labelled the situation as ‘ethnic cleansing’. Talks about establishing specific sanctions targeting the military are under way.
- Over 600,000 Rohingya have been displaced since the August 25 attacks and subsequent ‘clearance operations’ in Arakan (Rakhine). Talks of repatriation of Rohingya refugees between Burma and Bangladesh have stalled, and many Rohingya refugees reject the prospect of returning in the light of unresolved causes to the violence, and fears of ongoing abuse.
- Displaced populations on the Thailand-Burma border face increasing challenges and humanitarian funding cuts. As of October 1, TBC has stopped distributing food aid to Shan IDP camps and the Ei Tu Hta Karen IDP camp.
- October 15 marked the two-year anniversary of the NCA. The Burma Government and BA have upheld that the agreement remains a success and a major step towards peace. Signatory EAOs have expressed concerns regarding the implementation of the NCA. The KNU has criticized the NCA for its lack of progress in achieving peace and in resolving ethnic issues.
- Fighting between the KIA and the BA has intensified this month, with numerous clashes in Kachin and Shan States. Local populations have reported that the BA has deliberately fired mortars at villages and randomly fired guns at civilians.
- VIllagers in Kachin State reported that the KIA took between 40 and 60 civilian hostages. Fifteen were released a few days later, but the majority remained in KIA custody in an unknown location.
- The two KBC pastors detained by the BA since December 2016 were individually sentenced to four and two years of imprisonment under the Unlawful Association Act by the Lashio Township Court, Shan State.
- International food aid to IDP camps in southeast Burma stopped as of September 30. These include Karen IDP camp Ei Thu Hta and four Shan IDP camps with a total population of over 8,000 people. Read about Burma Link’s “Keep Supporting” campaign here.
- After ARSA attacked police and army outposts in Arakan State on August 25, clearance operations by security forces have resulted in 500,000 mainly Rohingya civilians fleeing Burma. Rohingya sources estimate that more than 5,000 civilians have been killed.
- BA continued to clash with a number of EAOs in northern Burma, including the KIA and TNLA, as well as the ceasefire group SSPP/SSA-S. BA and BGF (under BA command) also clashed with a splinter group of the DKBA in Karen State, forcing 500 villagers into already overcrowded IDP camps. The NSCN-K confronted the Indian Army’s Eastern Command in Nagaland.
- BA continued to abuse the rights of ethnic civilians. In Kachin State, BA shot and killed a 28-year old civilian working in his rice field, continued extorting money and seizing possessions of local villagers, and fired mortar shells in a village. In the Shan State, BA abuse reported in September included killings, torture, and arbitrary arrest of civilians.
- Over 10,000 locals from three townships in Kachin State protested against an expansion project in Mt. Hkakabo Razi National Park due to concerns over land loss. The expansion aims to make the park the first UNESCO Natural World Heritage site in Burma.
- BA dropped charges against the six men charged under the Unlawful Association Act in June, including two reporters from the DVB and one from The Irrawaddy.
- UK has suspended military training courses with the BA, and the US has cancelled plans to expand cooperation, in light of the recent developments in Arakan (Rakhine) State.
- DASSK gave a public and national address in Naypyidaw on September 19, in response to international concerns regarding the crisis in Arakan State. The first public UNSC meeting on Burma was held this month for the first time in 8 years.
- BA continued to clash with a number of EAOs in northern Burma, including the KIA and TNLA as well as the ceasefire group SSPP/SSA-S and NCA signatory RCSS/SSA-S.
- BA surprise attack in Kachin State’s Kasung village forced villagers out of their homes, killing one and injuring numerous others. Hundreds of villagers also fled conflict between BA and TNLA in northern Shan State. One woman was killed after being hit by an artillery shell during a BA and TNLA clash.
- Several reports of human rights abuse by the BA in Kachin and Shan States.
- SSPP/SSA submitted a resignation letter to the ethnic alliance UNFC.
- Karen IDPs in Ei Thu Hta camp are caught in a hard place as BA troops have not withdrawn and international support will stop after September.
- Burma Army dropped charges against six journalists.
- Humanitarian crisis in Arakan State started after the ARSA attacked 31 police posts, followed by brutal ‘clearance operations’ by Burmese security forces, killing scores and displacing hundreds of thousands.
IN BRIEF: What Happened
• BA continued to abuse the rights of civilians, violations including arbitrary arrests, torture, and killings.
• Hundreds were newly displaced in the Shan State, following clashes between BA, RCSS/SSA-S and TNLA. Clashes also intensified between the BA and KIA in western Kachin State.
• Around 1,000 new IDPs are sheltering in churches after last month’s conflict around Tanai Township, Kachin State.
• Severe fire in Karenni Refugee Camp (1) left over 150 Karenni refugees homeless.
• A Committee for Shan State Unity meeting in Thailand was cancelled by BA, presumably to prevent Shan unity.
• BA Information Team declared the use of military ranks by non-state armed organizations illegal.
• Community members and local environmental and human rights groups continue to raise concerns about the impacts of development projects.
• The three journalists arrested in June remain remanded in Shan State. Local and international groups have called for their unconditional release as well as for greater media freedom.
• UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee made a 12-day trip to Burma amidst an “escalating security situation.”
IN BRIEF: What Happened
- UNFC Congress and elections resulting in new leadership for the armed alliance
- World Refugee Day on June 20th called attention to the plight of Burma’s refugees in Thailand
- 6th Anniversary of the Kachin conflict was commemorated in Kachin State
- Armed conflict in Tanai Township, Kachin State, between BA and KIA, hundreds displaced and stranded
- Conflict rages on in Kachin and Shan States between BA and TNLA as well as RCSS and TNLA
- Three journalists were arrested under the Unlawful Associations Act after returning from a TNLA drug burning ceremony
- Various protests took place across the country against harmful development projects and for freedom of press and expression
- A new labor law in Thailand was enacted, resulting in tens of thousands of migrants returning to Burma
IN BRIEF: What Happened
- BA continued to send more troops to Kachin and Shan States and conflict escalated in the area with a number of civilian casualties. BA continued to abuse civilians especially in conflict areas, including killing 3 Kachin IDPs.
- The Union Peace Conference also known as the 21st Century Panglong Conference (21CPC) took place between May 24-27 in Naypyidaw.
- 21CPC – The UPNDC (Panghsan Alliance of 7 northern EAOs led by the UWSA) members including the TNLA, AA, and MNDAA attended the opening ceremony as “special guests,” but also held separate meetings with DASSK.
- 21CPC – Other important stakeholders such as the armed ethnic alliance UNFC did not attend as they were not given equal status in the discussions, among other reasons.
- 21CPC – Participants agreed to 37 of 41 basic federal principles and signed part 1 of the Union Accord. The debate about the term “non-secession from the Union” was not settled.
- Decreasing funding continues to increase pressure to return for refugees and IDPs along the Thailand-Burma border. Thousands of Karen villagers protested at Ei Tu Hta IDP camp for the withdrawal of BA from their lands before they could return.
- Launch of Kachin State Jade mining documentary by Global Witness was canceled in Rangoon. The next day, four freelance miners were shot dead by security forces.
- CSO groups in Burma as well as the EU support the UN fact finding mission in Arakan State, in contrast to Burma Government and DASSK.
IN BRIEF: What Happened
- BHRN released a statement noting that evidence supports a prima facie case against the State of Burma for war crimes in Kachin State and crimes against humanity in Arakan State.
- The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution to urgently dispatch an international fact-finding mission to look into gross human rights violations in Arakan State.
- Attack by MNDAA and armed conflict between the BA and MNDAA resulted in deaths of dozens of BA soldiers as well as police officers and civilians. Over 20,000 civilians fled to China.
- After one year in power, many have been disappointed in the NLD-led Government. The peace process has stagnated, political and economic reforms have stalled, and violations by the BA continue.
- Marking the International Day of Action for Rivers, ethnic communities around Burma rallied against dams threatening their cultures, livelihoods, and environments.
- Misunderstandings between DASSK and EAOs about the NCA signing took place as DASSK announced that KIO will sign the NCA, followed by KIO rebutting the claim. DASSK then announced that five UNFC members have confirmed to sign, followed by these members stating nothing had been confirmed.
- Recent developments are, however, signalling changes in the ethnic alliances. KIO, a leading UNFC member, is part of a northern block calling for a new peace process outside of the NCA. The position of several other non-signatory UNFC groups is not confirmed but there are signals that they might sign the NCA and change their policy of all-inclusiveness.
- Many analysists and observers are concerned as they insist that all-inclusiveness is the only path towards genuine and lasting peace.
- Over 20,000 people in Moulmein participated in a protest against the parliamentary decision to name a bridge in the state after Bogyoke Aung San against the people’s wishes.
IN BRIEF: What Happened
- The UPDJC suspended regional-level discussions involving the CNF and the ALP in the run-up to the second 21CPC.
- Kachin National Conference was stopped by police in Myitkina, Kachin State capitol, but later allowed under the name of “meeting.”
- The second 21CPC that was set to be held on Feb 28 has been postponed to be held sometime in March.
- 70th Anniversary of Union Day was held in Panglong, Shan State, where DASSK called for EAOs to sign the NCA, despite some EAOs still being excluded from the pact.
- Several arrests were made in connection to the high-profile assassination of U Ko Ni at Rangoon international airport on Jan 29.
- New ND-Burma report covering the year 2016 found serious violations such as torture and killings to have nearly doubled from 2015.
- Burma Link, KSNG and KYO launched a documentary film about refugee youth and education along the Thailand-Burma border in a press conference in Yangon on Feb 22.
- National CSO Forum was held in Naypyidaw and preliminary forum in Taunggyi.
IN BRIEF: What Happened
- U Ko Ni, a top legal adviser to NLD was assassinated outside Rangoon airport on January 29th as he waited for a taxi, holding his grandson in his arms. The assassination of U Ko Ni is a tremendous loss to the people of Burma and a major setback for the peace process.
- The situation in Kachin State has deteriorated due to intensified BA military operations and BA taking over several KIA posts, cutting off support for IDPs. In January, more than 4,000 people tried to flee to China where they were denied entry. Civilians have also been newly displaced in the Shan State.
- BA continues to abuse the rights of villagers in ethnic areas, violations including abductions and arbitrary arrests, forced labour, destruction and confiscation of property, and torture.
- UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, completed an official visit to Burma in January, but was restricted from visiting Laiza and Hpakant in Kachin State.
- Since the BA-run violent persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State began in October, more than 65,000 have fled to Bangladesh, 22,000 in January.
- Preparations are under way for the Union Peace Conference planned for February. With the government showing little sign of backtracking on the stipulation that only ceasefire signatories can attend the meeting, only one-third of the EAOs will likely be able to attend.
CONFLICT & HUMAN RIGHTS UPDATE: Northern Burma
- BA troops killed innocent civilians in Mansi and Mongko Townships in Kachin State, including one villager found shot on Christmas day. His only child had been taken by the BA in 2015 and his whereabouts remain unknown.
- On Dec 20, a mass grave containing the scorched remains of 18 Mung Lung villagers, including a two-year-old boy, were discovered in the Mongko area. The 18 villagers had been arrested and detained by BA soldiers on Nov 28. These villagers had reportedly stayed in the village believing that BA soldiers would not harm innocent villagers.
- On Dec 11, the bodies of three murdered Mongko residents were discovered. The men had snuck into Mongko on December 4 to visit their homes after deserting the town, but were seized by Burmese army troops and tortured.
- BA has been bombarding KIA positions with multiple airstrikes lasting for several days as well as firing mortars, in some areas for 10 consecutive days.
- Thousands of people have been newly displaced in the aftermath of a military offensive that saw BA troops overrun the KIA’s Gidon mountaintop outpost after four months of intense offensives. Gidon is important access point to Kachin IDP camps north of the post.
- BA air strikes outside Mongko killed three civilians, including a child, and injured six others on Dec 4. The BA also bombed a Roman Catholic Church in Mongko on Dec 3. The TNLA said BA troops are deliberately targeting civilian population in areas with no fighting.
- Rally by former USDP MPs and local pro-military activists, some of them masquerading in ethnic costumes, took place in Rangoon on Dec 19 supporting BA activities against EAOs in the north. Ethnic civil society organisations said ‘ethnic’ participants were not real ethnic people.
- 422 civil society and environmental groups called on the government to halt all proposed coal and large-scale hydropower projects, citing a raft of negative impacts on vulnerable local communities including exacerbating conflict.
Elsewhere in Burma
- Tenasserim Division — Fighting between KNLA and MNLA on Dec 20 resulted in one KNLA officer wounded by gunfire. After 20 years with no fighting between the two armies, regional security observers are concerned that the latest clash was the second since September.
- Chin State — Renewed clashes between the BA and the AA have kicked off with some 200 people displaced on Dec 12.
- According to the UN there are about 100,000 displaced people in Kachin and northern Shan States, about half of whom are in areas controlled by the KIO. Up to 15,000 people may have fled across Burma’s border into China since late November.
- At least 3,000 villagers who fled their homes in northern Shan State to escape the fighting between RCSS and TNLA are taking shelter in the towns of Hsipaw and Namtu.
- The UN has been waiting for months to send aid to displaced civilians in KIO territory, but has been unable to secure official permission from the NLD-led Government. The last aid convoy reached these areas before the new Government took office.
- Thousands of Karen civilians are still displaced after the recent conflicts between the DKBA splinter group and the BA-backed BGF in September and October.
- After one month of negotiations, 17 Rangoon refugee returnees recently repatriated with UNHCR facilitation from Thai refugee camps have come to an agreement for a lower upfront payment to purchase housing. More than 100,000 refugees remain in the Thai camps.
- Bangladesh announced that around 50,000 Rohingya have fled violence across its border since October.
PEACE PROCESS UPDATE
- The Government proposed peace talks with the NA-B in late December, and the NRPC is now negotiating to arrange informal meetings between the two sides in China. The NA-B reiterated its call for a peace dialogue to resolve hostilities through political negotiations.
- Shan State Parliament approved the branding on the Northern Alliance as ‘terrorists’ on Dec 7, motion put forward by the BA and USDP, raising questions about their sincerity concerning the peace process. Ethnic activists assert that the BA should be labeled ‘terrorists’ since they have been killing and torturing civilians, raping ethnic women, destroying and burning down houses for decades. The eight EAOs that signed the NCA in 2015 condemned the motion.
- The NA-B called on China on Dec 5 to mediate to end the conflict. A joint statement by the NA-B demanded the BA stop its offensives immediately and withdraw troops from ethnic areas across the whole country.
- The KNU met with officials from the Karen State Government to discuss cooperation on solving ongoing and future land issues on Dec 6 at the Karen State Government office.
ARAKAN (RAKHINE) STATE UPDATE
- Daw Aung San Suu Kyi faced international criticism for failing to stand up for the Rohingya, including an open letter in late December to the UN security council from a group of 23 activists, among them Desmond Tutu and Malala Yousafzai.
- The ARNO condemned the statement released by the Government Investigation Commission on Dec 14 that the Government is ‘following the law’ and that soldiers did not perpetrate any human rights violations in any Rohingya village as ‘false and fabricated’. ARNO demands a UN-sponsored International Investigation Commission.
- The Ministry of Religious Affairs and Culture announced that it is working to prove that the Rohingya community is not an indigenous group of Burma.
- In a press statement on Dec 3, ARNO stated that the military and police crackdown on Rohingya population is state sponsored and ‘carried out with manifest intention of destroying the Rohingya minority community.’
CONFLICT UPDATE: Northern Burma
- Since August, Burma Army (BA) has been attacking the Kachin’s Gidon Mountain post, which allows the KIO access to IDP camps north the post. If the BA was able to capture Gidon, several IDP camps would be cut off from aid. BA transported more troops and equipment to the area in the beginning of Nov and daily exchange of artillery rounds were reported around the area.
- On Nov 20, the Northern Alliance (NA) of Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) — comprising of the KIO/KIA, PSLF/TNLA, AA, and MNDAA — against the Burma Army (BA) in the area after enduring repeated and intensified attacks by the Burmese troops also against civilians. Read BL’s interview with the PSLF/TNLA Head of Foreign Affairs.
- During the fighting on Nov 20, eight people, including police officers and soldiers, were reportedly killed in Muse. NA released a statement on Nov 21 demanding a halt traveling in the northern Shan State due to an intensification of hostilities.
- TNLA spokesman said the reason of the attack against the BA is to put pressure on the government to solve political problems. The KIA on Nov 23 released a statement claiming it was waging a “limited war” alongside their allies in response to BA offensives in ethnic areas across the country.
- More than 2,600 IDPs are staying at monasteries in Muse and about 3,000 others have fled to China where they are being provided with shelter and medical care, according to China’s foreign ministry.
- NA soldiers seized most of Mong Ko, a border town in northern Shan State, but the BA took back control of the town after multiple air strikes running over several days.
DISPLACEMENT: Northern and Eastern Burma
- Kachin IDPs said the new Kachin State Government has shown no interest in them and has never sent anyone to visit the village whereas the former government at least visited them every two or three months and gave them food supplies.
- Some 40,000 IDPs in Kachin and northern Shan states have been facing food shortages due to being unable to secure long-term food support and the government’s block on food aid, according to local relief groups.
- People displaced from the Mae Tha Wor area of Karen State by fighting are still too scared to return home because of Burma Army’s interrogation. Read BL’s interview with Karen Major General Nerdah Bo Mya and villagers about the recent conflict.
- CSOs have questioned the Thailand-Burma border refugee repatriation period since the violence throughout Burma has been increasing. The Karen Refugee Committee (KRC) also said they feel they were neglected in decision-making processes and were not invited to cooperate in recent refugee repatriation efforts by the UNHCR.
- Whilst DASSK has pushed EAOs to sign the non-inclusive NCA before the next UPC (Union Peace Conference), KIO leaders argue that they need political negotiations rather than to sign the NCA.
- A meeting between the Government’s Peace Commission, the UNFC’s Delegation for Political Negotiation (DPN), and the technical support committee was held on Nov 9. The talks concluded the meeting without reaching any agreements. The UNFC/DPN continue to push for an all-inclusive peace process.
- The Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP) said they will continue with the UNFC all-inclusiveness policy of not signing the NCA until all EAOs are included in the process.
- The Karen Youth Organisation (KYO) ran a short course at a ‘Youth Empowered Society Camp’ to train youths on how to effectively participate in the peace process.
- Ethnic people will not tolerate being cheated again, and they must see the signs of a true federal union before the NCA is signed, said Gen. Sao Hso Ten of the SSPP/SSA.
- Breaches of the terms of the NCA by both the BA and the RCSS/SSA-S caused clashes in Oct, the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) has determined, following an investigative field trip to the affected area.
- The KNU has decided to postpone its 16th Congress from Nov 2016 till March 2017. The congress—which elects new members of the KNU’s Central Standing Committee—takes place every four years and can have far-reaching consequences for the peace process if new leadership allies with other EAOs.
HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS
- A local jade hand picker was shot on Nov 12 by Burma Army soldiers in Hpakant, Kachin State, when the troops randomly fired into the hand pickers who were finding leftover jade pieces in the debris.
- Local residents in Kachin and northern Shan States have reported of several abuses and rights violations by BA soldiers in Oct, including torture, arbitrary detention and killings.
- About 70 Mungkoe residents have been arrested and taken inside a Burma Army camp since Nov 20, and are still being held hostages inside the army base.
- During BA operations against the SSPP/SSA-N in Oct, locals reported extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests of villagers as well as looting of civilian property. Over 2,000 were newly displaced in Hsipaw after BA attack.
- A number of concerned CSOs have issued a statement demanding an investigation into the murder of a young Karen women activist, Naw Chit Pandaing, stabbed to death on Nov 19, in Dawei Town.
- Plans to build dams on the Salween River by the Burma Government, China and Thailand threatens millions of villagers and animals that depend on the river for their living, food sources and as a vital transport link.
- Burmese authorities continue to arrest and charge individuals, including members of the ruling party, for criticizing the military and government, HRW said on Nov 27.
VOICES FROM THE GROUND
- On Nov 11, between 600 to 700 Karen people from 22 different states across the U.S. took part in their first ever demonstration in front of the White House as well as the Burma Embassy, demanding the U.S. Government to put pressure on the Burma Government towards implementing genuine peace and reconciliation in the country, and retain sanctions against military cronies. Read BL’s interview with the leading organiser Mu Kapaw.
- CSOs and locals launched a campaign on Nov 3 calling for the complete shutdown of the Tigyit coal-fired power plant in southern Shan State following a test-run of the plant after two years of closure.
- About 300 farmers in Sagaing Region protested a longstanding feud with a Chinese-backed nickel-processing plant on Nov 10, claiming that the factory confiscated their lands without proper compensation.
- On Nov 27, over 1,500 farmers from 19 townships gathered on the banks of the Namtu river to demand an immediate cancellation of the Upper Yeywa dam in northern Shan State, where conflict has escalated dramatically last month.
ARAKAN STATE UPDATE
- Researchers from the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) published the results of months of fieldwork in Arakan State, concluding that the policies of DASSK-led Government are genocidal.
- New satellite imagery of the state shows 820 newly identified structures destroyed in Rohingya villages between Nov 10-18, in addition to the 430 destroyed houses and buildings identified earlier by the Human Rights Watch (HRW).
- At a news conference on Nov 16, Burma’s Office of the State Counsellor said that it acknowledged there had been buildings burned in the three villages, but disputed the total number based on images. DASSK faces mounting criticism for her Government’s handling of the crisis
- The Burma government on Nov 16 formed a special information committee to release news about the situation in Arakan in an apparent move to counter damning reports by outside groups.
- Up to 30,000 people have been displaced by renewed violence in northern Arakan State, the UN said on Nov 18. The death toll from recent violence is believed to have reached 130.
- The Government allowed aid to resume and permitted international observers to monitor the aid, but they were not taken to the scene of some of the most serious allegations of abuses against civilians.
- The Burma government lodged a protest on Nov 28 over remarks by a UN human rights official that the country is conducting a genocide campaign on the Rohingya.
- On Nov 28, 13 political parties, including the military-backed USDP, called on the National Defence and Security Council (NDSC) to intervene in dealing with the Arakan crisis.
- More than 500 Burma Campaign UK supporters have written to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urging him to personally lead efforts to persuade the government and military in Burma to lift all humanitarian aid restrictions in Arakan State.
- Kofi Annan issued a statement expressing his deep concern over the recent violence in northern Arakan State. A group of parliamentarians from member states of the ASEAN have also called on Burma’s government to investigate alleged abuses in northern Arakan State.
- Myanmar Times journalist was dismissed after she covered the story of abuses and rape in Arakan State. Following this event, several international human rights groups have spoken out over what they allege is Burma Government obstruction and harassment of journalists trying to cover the crisis.
- Burma‘s plans to arm and train non-Muslim residents in north of Arakan State criticised by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).
CONFLICT UPDATE: Kachin and Shan States
- KACHIN AND NORTHERN SHAN STATES — Burma army troops have been firing on KIA outposts almost daily with artillery and mortar fires and the KIO has warned the government to halt its military offensives in the KIO’s territory.
- A two-year-0old girl was killed and two other children were injured when Burma Army’s artillery shell struck near their homes on October 1, in northern Shan state.
- The Burma Army has stopped a local environmentalist group from sending food relief to IDPs in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township on suspicion that the supplies were intended for the KIA.
- 49 Kachin youths were detained and charged under the Unlawful Association Act, with authorities that they were rebel fighters training. The KIO said the youth attended civil empowerment programs.
- Free Burma rangers released an update including the Burma Army’s use of fighter jets to drop bombs and the use of chemical weapons against KIA.
- Two Kachin villagers were detained on October 17 because police suspected that they were providing food to members of the KIA.
- CENTRAL SHAN STATE — Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) condemned Burma Army’s provocation of fighting with the NCA signatory group RCSS/SSA. The fighting has involved shelling of civilian areas and displacement of about 2,000 villagers since the start of October. One Shan villager was shot dead by a Burmese soldier.
- EASTERN SHAN STATE — Military tensions arose unexpectedly between Burma’s largest non-state armed group the UWSA (United Wa State Army) and the NDAA at the end of September when the UWSA seized control of strategic positions from the NDAA in the self-administered region of Mongla in northeast Shan State. UWSA leader on Oct. 21 said that the UWSA wants to avoid war with another armed ethnic group, but has been reinforcing its troops in the area. Around 100 local officials and villagers have fled their homes due to escalating tensions between the Burma Army (BA) and the UWSA.
CONFLICT UPDATE: Southeast Burma
- Leaders from the KNU and the NMSP met on Oct 15 and agreed more effort is needed to prevent territorial disputes between the two groups. Troops exchanged gunfire again on Oct 24 in their second clash in months.
- The KNU started their meeting of the Central Committee on October 31st. The meeting reviews reports from the various KNU departments and prepares for the KNU Congress, including elections, which takes place every four years. There are reports that the Congress could be postponed.
- Casualties were reported in fighting between the splinter DKBA and the Burma Army with the allied BGF on Oct 19 in Karen State.
- There are “strong indications” that government forces are using the armed clashes to expand its territorial control around the Hat Gyi dam site, said Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). Karen Rivers Watch also accused Burma Army of carrying out the offensives to secure a road to the construction site of the dam.
- KNU and DKBA splinter group (Buddhist) are preparing to meet on to discuss the possibility of DKBA joining the KNU.
DISPLACEMENT UPDATE: Thailand-Burma border
- Since the NLD-led government took the office, donor support for refugees has decreased, and the pressure for refugees to return has increased.
- The first organised return of more than 90 refugee camp residents took place on Oct 25. 25 refugees backed out at the last minute and after being repatriated, 17 persons reported regretting their decision and advised other refugees not to return.
- Karen groups say it is too early to be arranging the return as thousands of Karen remain displaced after the recent conflicts between the DKBA splinter group and the Burma Army-backed BGF (Border Guard Force), unable to return due to landmines, fears of being interrogated by the BA, and possibility of renewed conflict.
- Representatives of the KNU held meetings with refugees at the nine Thailand-Burma border camps to inform them about the peace process.
Update: Violence in Arakan (Rakhine) State
- Violence erupted in Arakan State on October 9, after a militant group ransacked and killed nine police officers and wounded another five. In response, police and military started attacking Rohingya groups, targeting and killing innocent civilians.
- Abuses committed by government forces and security authorities include killings, rape, arson, torture, and arbitrary arrests. The European Union’s Directorate General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) estimates that 13,000 people had been displaced as of Oct 21.
- Lack of media access to affected areas makes it difficult to assess the true extent of the crisis. According to unconfirmed claims over 100 civilians have been killed by government forces whilst satellite images obtained by the Human Rights Watch show that at least three villages have been destroyed to the ground.
- Despite DASSK’s pledge to manage the situation “fairly” and according to “rule of law,” UN human rights experts called on the government to take action against alleged arbitrary arrests, extrajudicial killings and burning of mosques and homes.
- Burma’s President Office spokesperson denied accusations by the UN human rights experts. Senior military official also said recent killings in Arakan state were an appropriate response in cases where they have encountered weapons-wielding hostiles.
- Media and humanitarian aid have faced increasing government restrictions entering the affected areas and the WFP is concerned about the government’s continuous refusal to deliver food rations to thousands of people.
- The Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) and other groups have released a number statements requesting various international organisations, the UN and countries to put pressure on NLD-led government to stop the killing of innocent Rohingya, restore their basic freedoms, and provide full protection and humanitarian assistance.
Voices from the Ground
- The UNA (United Nationalities Alliance) demanded an end to Burmese military offensives in Kachin, Shan and Karen States at a summit held on Oct 15.
- Hundreds of people joined a vigil in the Kachin State capital on Oct 3 to pray for an end to the ongoing armed conflict between Burma Army and the KIA.
- Tens of thousands of people protested in Kachin State’s capital Myitkina on Oct 6, calling for an end to Burmese military hostilities.
- In Rangoon, Kachin youth activists held a press conference and demanded the government do more to solve recent conflicts.
- A coalition of nine local humanitarian organisations active in Kachin State released a statement on Oct 14 voicing their concern over restrictions on humanitarian aid access to Kachin IDP camps.
- The KNO (Kachin National Organisation) in a press release on October 4 called on the UN to step in and protect innocent civilians and prevent further destruction in the Kachin State.
- The Chin Youth Network issued a statement on 4 October demanding that the Burma Army immediately halts all of its offensives in ethnic areas.
- People from about 30 organisations gathered in Rangoon on Oct 9 calling for the stopping of armed conflicts in Burma and a probe into the case where one child was killed and others injured due to Burma Army shelling.
- The UNFC released a statement calling for an end to the fighting in Kachin, Shan and Karen States.
- 100 representatives from civil society organizations, political parties and farmers across Shan State demanded the NLD-led government to take action on land seizures.
- Residents of 10 villages have banded together as the Thanlwin (Salween) Network to counter the proposed expansion of the military-owned cement industry in the Karen State. There have also been protests and other local gatherings to oppose the plans.
- There have been numerous calls and press releases by local groups as well as international INGOs calling for the Burma Government to address the growing reports of human rights violations in Arakan/Rakhine State and allow media and aid to enter the areas. These abuses perpetrated by the Burma Army, the BGF and police force include rape, arrests, arson, torture, and killings.
- Ethnic analysists such as Lahpai Seng Raw, founder of Metta Development Foundation that works in the Kachin State, have raised concerns over Aung San Suu Kyi’s lack of understanding of the Burma Army’s offensives that continue even against NCA signatories.
International Community Response
- The British House of Commons stressed that restrictions on humanitarian aid to conflict-affected communities in Kachin, northern Shan and Arakan state should be urgently lifted.
- Amnesty International called for Burma’s authorities to immediately lift restrictions that are preventing the UN and other humanitarian agencies from reaching people in need in Kachin and Arakan States.
- Despite loud objections from the civil society and human rights groups, President Obama formally announced the lifting of U.S. sanctions on Burma on October 7.
- The EU Delegation to Burma expressed their concern on Oct 7 over reports of intensifying military action and armed clashes in several states across the country.
- The U.S. ambassador Scott Marciel promised in a meeting on Oct 3 that they will not put pressure on any NCA non-signatory EAOs to sign the pact.
Peace Update: Union Peace Conference (UPC) – 21st Century Panglong Conference (21CPC)
- The 21CPC convened by the State Counsellor Daw Aung San Su Kyi was held in the nation’s capital Naypyidaw from August 31st to September 3rd. In total there were 950 attendees, including a series of high-profile international guests such as the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.
- Each presenter was given 10 minutes to present their views and wishes for the future; more than 70 proposals were presented. The UNFC, main ethnic alliance comprising of 7 Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) that refused to sign the NCA (‘Nationwide’ Ceasefire Agreement) last year on the grounds that it was non-inclusive, presented its draft Federal Constitution.
- Three EAOs (TNLA, AA, and MNDAA) were excluded from the conference, despite expressing their interest in participating. Chairman of a Shan party SNLD boycotted the conference as it was not inclusive of all EAOs and also women and youth participation was largely missing.
- 9 delegates from the UWSA (largest non-state armed group) walked out of the conference after been mistakenly accredited as observers only. Burma’s peace commission sent a letter of apology to the UWSA.
- Three Karen armed groups submitted a joint motion requesting the government to adhere to international standards during the repatriation of refugees from Thai border camps.
- Though most NCA non-signatories were allowed to attend, their full participation in the political dialogue requires that they sign the NCA. This includes members of the UNFC.
- The UNFC acknowledged the significance of the conference, but called for all-inclusiveness in the peace process and an end to Burma Army hostilities.
- Delegates of the conference are expected to meet every six months to discuss a range of issues. The Framework for Political Dialogue is set to be concluded before the next conference.
- Burma Army offensives and military build-up has continued and intensified in the ethnic lands leading up to the conference as well as during the month of September.
- Maj. Na Ma Kyar, the commander of the DKBA splinter group was killed on August 30th leading to fresh clashes between DKBA (-Buddhist) and the Burma Army/backed BGF in Karen State, leading to more than 4,000 Karen civilians from 12 villages fleeing their homes and becoming IDPs in the Mae Tha Wor area.
- The KWO (Karen Women’s Organisation) called for an end to fighting and KNU (Karen National Union) released a statement protesting military activities by Burma Army and BGF forces in the area. Some aid has been supplied, however, Burma Army officers have tried to pressure the IDPs to return home while it is unsafe to do so due to landmines.
- Burma Army offensives against KIO/KIA, SSPP/SSA and PSLF/TNLA in the Kachin and Shan States has been ongoing and government troops increased their military offensives against KIA, including mortar attacks; they reinforced troop strength in SSPP/SSA territory; and increased their activity in areas controlled by the PSLF/TNLA.
- Aid trucks carrying medicine and rice for IDPs in Kachin State were stopped and ransacked by Burma Army soldiers. Burma Army soldiers visited a Kachin IDP camp telling residents that every IDP family member will be killed if they are found to have a connection with KIA.
- At least 10,000 IDPs are unable to go back to their homes and 300 students are unable to return to school in the Shan State as a result of fighting that broke out between the TNLA and the RCSS/SSA last November, after the latter signed the so-called ‘Nationwide’ Ceasefire Agreement.
- A number of civil society groups released statements in September urging the Burma Army to withdraw from ethnic areas and stop the attacks.
- The World Food Programme has cut food aid rations to IDPs in Arakan State by an alarming rate leaving some NGOs to purport that the reductions will only lead to starvation and death. The reduction will affect more than 22,000 people and appear to be part of a phase-out plan by the agency.
- The Arakan State Government plans to demolish more than 3,000 Rohingyas’ buildings, including 12 mosques and 35 madrasas, under the pretext of illegal construction.
- The KNU and the NMSP clashed in Tenasserim Division on September 12th in the first clash in 28 years; a consultation group made up of both sides has been established to avoid miscommunication in the future.
- The Burma Army and police bulldozed a village in Chin State, forcing 380 individuals to be displaced.