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UN calls for international genocide tribunal on Myanmar

South East Asia

UN calls for international genocide tribunal on Myanmar

Kachin Christians flee persecution. Photo credit: Barnabas Fund

UN investigators called this week for international investigation and prosecution of the Myanmar military (Tatmadaw) for genocide and atrocities perpetrated against minorities including the mainly-Christian Kachin.

The meticulous 400-page final report, released 18 September, documents almost a decade of crimes against humanity in harrowing detail, amounting “to the gravest crimes under international law”.

Press attention has focused on the elements of the report condemning genocide against Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state. But the report also highlights “similar patterns of conduct by security forces” in Kachin and Shan states in Myanmar.

The commission identified a “culture of impunity” in the military forces and named six top-ranking officials, including Myanmar’s army chief, Min Aung Hlaing, who should face immediate sanctions and international trial for war crimes.

Civilian leaders were also criticised for their complicity, the report stating that, “Ignorance on the part of the Myanmar civilian authorities was effectively impossible.”

During the 15-month investigation, UN investigators were repeatedly denied visas to Myanmar. Documentary evidence was compiled from satellite imagery and over 800 interviews which revealed a pattern of systematic targeting of civilians with acts of sexual violence, torture, and forced labour.

A Kachin Christian woman recounted, “I was beaten with belts and knives. Both my parents were killed. They were tied up and burned. Their house was set on fire by five soldiers. They took me outside the house to rape me. I was taken by one man with three stars on his badge to the back of the house. He beat me with the butt of his gun and a belt. They wanted money and were not happy because my family was Christian.”

The investigation also found evidence that Kachin Christian women are routinely targeted for forced marriage to army officers and pressured into converting to Buddhism.

One Kachin detainee described being humiliated for his faith in 2012, “Because I am Christian, they made me imitate Jesus on a cross like the crucifixion. We were treated like animals because they look down on Kachins.”

As many as 10,000 civilians from the mainly-Christian Kachin ethnic minority were displaced in an offensive by the army earlier this year. Barnabas Fund is helping to meet the immediate and longer-term needs of displaced Kachin Christians, supplying food, clothing and shelter and enabling children to continue their school studies.