Lee warns of ‘tensions’ among Shan communities over fighting
COMMUNITIES in northern Shan State are at risk of splintering due to recent fighting between and among ethnic armed groups and the Tatmadaw, warned the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar.
Visiting from June 19 to July 1, Yanghee Lee made trips to Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states, where civilians affected by armed and inter-communal conflicts have been displaced and live in temporary camps.
She said at a July 1 press conference that the situation in northern Shan State had become more complex since her last visit, with multiple actors using armed force in the region amid accusations that the Tatmadaw is employing divide-and-rule tactics.
“I am particularly concerned by reports from civil society actors that the fighting between the TNLA and RCSS is starting to create tensions between the civilian communities in affected areas,” she said, referring to the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Restoration Council of Shan State.
Starting late last year, fighting between the TNLA and the RCSS has displaced thousands of civilians from areas including Kutkai, Kyaukme and Namkhan townships.
The RCSS was one of eight nonstate armed groups that signed a socalled nationwide ceasefire agreement with the former government on October 15. The armed group has since been accused of assisting the Tatmadaw in its campaign against the TNLA, a charge the state military denies.
Ms Lee said she had also received reports concerning grave human rights violations in the conflict zone, such as abductions and forced recruitment by both the Tatmadaw and ethnic armed groups, as well as sexual and genderbased violence, torture, extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests.
“I reiterate that investigations should be conducted into all such allegations and that perpetrators be held to account,” the UN envoy said.
In her first visit since the current government took office, Ms Lee welcomed its commitment to resuming peace negotiations in an inclusive manner. The previous government’s exclusion of a handful of combatants led several groups, including some of Myanmar’s most powerful, to abstain from signing the nationwide ceasefire.
“It is vital that the process is truly inclusive, collaborative and open in order to build a sustainable peace going forward. Civil society actors must be seen as partners in this process, and have a voice in all areas of discussion,” the special rapporteur said, calling women’s participation vital.
The government has said it intends to hold a 21st-century Panglong Conference bringing stakeholders together no later than the end of August.