Religious Persecution, Human Rights Violations Continue in Burma

Jeremy Reynalds

Religious Persecution, Human Rights Violations Continue in Burma

SURREY, ENGLAND (ANS) -- A human rights organization is concerned that the plight of Burma's ethnic nationalities is being neglected in the process of engagement with Burma's regime.

In a news release, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) particularly highlights continuing severe violations of human rights, including the use of rape, forced labor, religious persecution, torture and killings in Kachin State. There the Burma Army has been waging an offensive against ethnic civilians since breaking a 17-year ceasefire with the Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/A) in June.

CSW said recent political developments in Burma suggest some potential welcome indicators of change. They include the decision by the National League for Democracy (NLD) to re-register as a political party, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's announcement that she will run for a parliamentary seat in forthcoming by-elections.

However, CSW reported, reports from the ethnic states, particularly Kachin State, indicate that grave human rights violations continue to be perpetrated by the Burma Army.

According to information received by CSW, nine villagers from Nawng Zang Kung village for internally displaced people, in Nam Jang, northern Shan State, were taken by Burma Army soldiers to a military camp at Nat Tsin Kung, at midnight on Nov. 17.

Four villagers were released the next day, but five were detained and have reportedly been subjected to severe torture.

CSW said Dawshi Roi Ji, 60, the mother of two of the detainees, Zahkung Yaw Zung and Yaw Sau, was taken to the camp and badly tortured. She was released the next day, but taken back to the camp that evening by the local ward official, Sai Aik Nyen. Her situation and that of the remaining detainees remains critical. Other civilians from the local area have fled to China to escape forced labor, harassment and torture.

CSW said the pastor of Banggaw Kachin Baptist Church, Gam Aung, was arrested by Burma Army soldiers in Manwin village at 3pm on Nov. 17, while in a store speaking on the phone. Local sources say no reasons were given for his arrest and his whereabouts are unknown.

CSW is also deeply concerned about the well-being of Sumlat Roi Ja, 28, mother of a 14-month old baby, from Hkai Bang village. She was captured by the Burma Army on Oct. 28, and forced to work as a porter. It is believed she has been held in the Burma Army camp and repeatedly gang-raped. The local Burma Army commander promised her family that she would be released by Nov. 2, but when the family waited for her at a designated location, she did not appear.

According to CSW's sources, Shayu Lum Hkawng, assistant to the pastor of an Assemblies of God church in Muk Chyuk village, Waimaw Township, died on Nov. 7 after severe torture. He had been detained along with the pastor, Lajaw Lum Hkawng, and tied up, after Burma Army soldiers attacked and looted the church the previous day.

The whereabouts of Hpalawng Lum Hkawng, deacon and youth music team leader, who was injured in the attack, is unknown.

CSW's East Asia Team Leader Benedict Rogers said in a news release: “Undoubtedly, as President Barack Obama said last week, there are ‘flickers of progress’ in Burma, and these should be welcomed and encouraged. However, it is vital that in our enthusiasm to welcome some political changes, we do not overlook the very grave human rights violations that continue to be perpetrated, particularly in the ethnic states.”

Rogers continued: “We therefore urge all international actors, particularly U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when she visits next month, to urge the regime to end its attacks on civilians in Kachin State and all parts of the country, to cease its campaign of rape, forced labor, torture, religious persecution and killing, to declare a nationwide ceasefire, release all political prisoners, and to enter into a meaningful dialogue process with representatives of the ethnic nationalities and the democracy movement led by Aung San Suu Kyi.”

Rogers emphasized, “The key test for the regime is to match its rhetoric with action, stop attacking its people, and begin a process that will secure peace and protect human rights for all the people of Burma.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide works for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice. For further information, visit www.csw.org.uk.

Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter. He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is Homeless in the City.

Publication date: November 28, 2011

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