Lee warns of ‘ten­sions’ among Shan com­mu­ni­ties over fight­ing

The Myanmar Times - - News - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­times.com

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.

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