Seven Kachin women have been raped in separate attacks by Burmese troops in the country's north, four of whom were subsequently murdered, a rights group has told DVB.
All incidents occurred in or close to Bhamo district in Kachin state, where additional battalions of Burmese soldiers have been deployed in the past fortnight to fight the insurgent Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
Moon Nay Li, coordinator of the Kachin Women's Association Thailand (KWAT), said that six women were raped this month – two of the incidents happened in Donbon village, one in Momauk township and three in Nahlon. The three women in Nahlon were then murdered.
She said another incident occurred just north of Bhamo on 17 June. “We learnt that a couple in Dawhpumyang [sub-township] were taken into the woods by troops from the Burmese army's LIB-142 [Light Infantry Battalion 142] – they tied up the husband and made him watch as they raped his wife before killing her.”
The latest wave of fighting in Bhamo began on 9 June when Burmese troops launched an attack on KIA bases, forcing thousands to flee their homes. The assault came after the KIA refused to become a government-controlled Border Guard Force.
Use of rape as a weapon of war in Burma has long been documented by rights group. The Shan Women's Action Network's landmark ‘License to Rape' report in 2002 cited 173 incidents of rape by Burmese troops in Shan state alone between 1996 and 2001. Of these, around 61 percent were believed to be gang-rapes, while a quarter resulted in deaths.
Moon Nay Li said rape of women was a regular occurrence when the Burmese army staged offensives in ethnic regions, and voiced concern that it had become “a policy” of government troops.
Opposition icon Aung San Suu Kyi told a summit of Nobel prize winners in May that rape in Burma is a “very real problem” and “is used as a weapon by armed forces to intimidate the ethnic nationalities and to divide our country,”
A statement released by KWAT last week said that China has restricted the movement of aid workers along the shared border, meaning that refugees were struggling to receive help.
Around 10,000 Kachin are estimated to have fled their homes since fighting began, some of whom have crossed into China and some of whom have travelled to the KIA headquarters in Laiza, north of Bhamo.