Karen National Union troops. Myanmar’s rebel armies outnumber the government forces if combined. Source: YouTube
A total of 22 humanitarian and development groups have called the Myanmar government to cease attacks on ethnic minority rebels armies in the northern states and attend to the thousands of refugees.
Under the military-drafted 2008 Constitution, the armed forces maintained control over the three most powerful ministries: home and border affairs and defence.
The International Rescue Committee, Oxfam, Plan International and Save the Children signed the statement on Kachin and northern Shan states which have been hit with sustained fighting since November, with the Tatmadaw using air strikes and heavy artillery.
The statement said “continually escalating armed conflict and severely deteriorating security situation for the civilian population”.
“We are alarmed about incidents of civilians being killed, injured and displaced due to intensification of military operations and use of heavy artillery in close proximity to [refugee] camps and populated areas,” it said.
Four powerful rebel armies of the so-called Northern Alliance are involved in the fighting.
The aid groups highlighted the plight of civilians sheltering in Maga Yang, Zai Awng and Hkau Shau camps, 6,000 of whom have fled their homes in Kachin State, with many others crossing the Chinese border.
They also emphasised the plight of the civilian population in Kachin’s Mansi Township and Kutkai, Kyaukme and Nam San townships in northern Shan State, where recent fighting has forced another 5,600 people from their homes.
State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi is planning her second so-called 21st-century Panglong peace conference next month and is trying to persuade the armed groups involved in the current conflicts to attend.
Kachin activists accuse the army of blocking humanitarian assistance to civilians, which the authorities deny.
NGOs have documented unlawful killings, torture, rape, forced labour and other abuses committed against civilians in northern Myanmar.
Fortify Rights and Human Rights Watch have collected evidence of war crimes, including the displacement of tens of thousands of people, destruction of homes and systematic use of torture and other degrading punishment of more than 60 civilians by the Tatmadaw from June 2011 to April 2014.
Yanghee Lee, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, was this month denied access by the government to Shan State and prevented from inspecting the jade-mining centre in Hpakant, where the military continues to profit from the largely unregulated gem trade.
Lee posted on Facebook: “It is evident that the situation in Kachin and at the northern borders is deteriorating. Those in Kachin State tell me that the situation is now worse than at any point in the past few years.”