By BosNewsLife News Center
RANGOON, BURMA (BosNewsLife) -- The military government of Burma has launched a new violent campaign against a largely Christian ethnic group and its churches, BosNewsLife learned Friday, September 8.
Religious rights group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) said it returned this week from "a fact-finding visit to Kachin State in northern Burma" with what it called "fresh evidence of violations of religious freedom and human rights" against Kachin people.
In its report, UK-based CSW highlights restrictions on the construction, extension or renovation of churches, and "widespread discrimination against Kachin Christians in Government positions," in Burma, also known as Myanmar.
One Kachin pastor allegedly told CSW that Burma’s ruling junta, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), “hates Kachins because we are Christians."
In October 2005, the SPDC’s Northern Commander, Brigadier-General Ohn Myint, reportedly said in a speech that he did not want to see any crosses or other Christian symbols on roadsides in Kachin State.
Rape, forced labor, land confiscation and forced relocation continue to be “widespread and regular," CSW said. One unidentified Kachin was quoted as saying that “rape happens in every area where there is an SPDC army camp.”
In January this year, for example, a Kachin woman was raped at gun-point by a soldier of SPDC Light Infantry Battalion 37, the report said.
"The trafficking of Kachin women from Burma into China, often to be sold as “wives” or sex slaves, is also widespread and alarming, with more than 50 cases reported so far this year. Since March, 12 Kachin women have been rescued, four from the China-North Korea border."
In an interview with CSW, a former Burma Army Major who defected allegedly confirmed the widespread use of rape by the SPDC, and the use of child soldiers.
He was quoted as saying that that SPDC soldiers are given "a quota of new soldiers" to recruit each month, to help the army expand. Soldiers go to railway stations, bus stations and other public locations and simply grab whoever they can find.
“Sometimes the children are so young that they still pee in the night,” he reportedly said. “That gives you an idea of the age of the youngest child soldiers.” They also take elderly men who are not really fit to serve as soldiers. “Many of the recruits are too young or too old to be in the army,” the defector added.
Reports continue to emerge of gross human rights violations in other parts of Burma as well. Last week, the Free Burma Rangers reported the killing of 22 civilians in Nyaunglebin district, Karen State, between March and July this year, and a continuing military offensive in Papun district. The Free Burma Rangers also reported on violations in Shan State, including the rape of a nine-year old girl in October 2004.
Burmese officials have not reacted to the report but have often denied abuses take place. Burma's government has also accused the West, and particularly the United States, of spreading propaganda and seeking to increase its influence in Southeast Asia.
CSW’s Advocacy Director Tina Lambert said however the investigation of her group had been "a ground-breaking visit but we know we have barely scratched the surface."
Lambert said that "Burma’s junta is one of the world’s worst violators of human rights, and we intend to continue to do all we can to help the people of Burma, including the Kachins, [and] tell the world of their plight."
Lambert added that it was "essential" that the international community recognizes "the desperate situation in Burma, and take action by bringing the issue to the agenda of the United Nations Security Council." (With BosNewsLife Research and reports from Burma).
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