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.
On March 13, 2011, ignoring repeated calls for peaceful dialogue, Burma’s military regime broke its 22-year-long ceasefire with the SSA-N, mobilizing 3,500 troops from over twenty battalions to launch attacks in Murng Su township. Fierce fighting has now spread to Tang Yan, Kesi, Mong Yai, Hsipaw, Lashio and Kyaukme townships, with 65 battles taking place in only three weeks.
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.
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.
These abuses and widespread looting have so far driven over 3,000 villagers to flee from their homes, either to the jungle, to nearby towns such as Mong Su, or to the Thai border.
Shan community-based groups are urging 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 Shan 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.
Shan Health Committee
Shan Human Rights Foundation
Shan Relief and Development Committee
Shan Sapawa Environmental Organisation
Shan Women’s Action Network
Shan Youth Power