By The Nation
Shan human rights groups on Tuesday denounced widespread atrocities against civilians inside Burma, one day after the Thai National Security Council (NSC) talk about repatriating more than 100,000 Burmese refugees back to the trouble-plague country.
The Shan community groups "strongly denounce the current Burma Army offensive against the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N) and atrocities against civilians, including shelling of Buddhist temples, gang-rape and using women as cannon fodder."
The 22-year-old ceasefire with the SSN-N came to an end effectively on March 13, 2011 when the Burmese military mobilised some 3,500 troops from over twenty battalions to launch attacks in Murng Su township, according to the report.
"Over 100,000 civilians in the conflict zone are now fearing for their lives. The Burma Army has deployed 120 mm mortars throughout the area and shelled indiscriminately at populated villages. The initial attack on March 13 involved shelling of a Buddhist temple at Wan Nam Lao, killing four novices and injuring two villagers," the report said.
"Villagers are being tortured and killed on suspicion of supporting the Shan resistance, and women targeted for sexual violence. Three women were gang-raped in separate incidents in Wan Nam Lao, including a 30-year-old woman who had given birth only one month earlier, and died after being raped by numerous troops."
"The Burma Army is also systematically rounding up women and girls from different villages, and using them as porters to walk in front of their troops to deter SSA-N attacks," the report aid.
The Shan groups urged the international community to condemn this unprovoked offensive, and increase pressure on Burma's military rulers to immediately stop their policies of military aggression in the ethnic areas.
"Northern Shan State is being plunged into war and new atrocities inflicted on our people. Now is definitely not the time to lift sanctions against the regime," said Kham Harn Fah of the Shan Human Rights Foundation.
The groups are also urging international donor countries and agencies not to cut support to refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border at a time when the conflict is intensifying in Shan State.
NSC's Secretary General Tawin Pleansri told reporters after his meeting with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva and Foreign Minister Kasit Piromya, armed forces chiefs and other security agencies at the Government House on Monday that the 100,000-plus refugees should return to Burma because Burma now has just concluded its general election and a new government is in place.
Source: The Nation