A new report condemns the mistreatment of a largely Christian minority

While the world watched – but failed to prevent – the genocide of Burma’s Muslim Rohingyas, further crimes against humanity have been perpetrated elsewhere in the country, away from the international spotlight. Burma’s generals have intensified their assault against the predominantly Christian Kachin, as well as the Buddhist Shan ethnic groups, in northern Burma, with devastating consequences.

Last week, the veil was finally lifted on Burma’s catalogue of gross human rights violations in an interim report by a United Nations fact-finding mission, instigated by the UN Human Rights Council.

While the inquiry accuses the generals of genocide against the Rohingyas, it also concludes that abuses committed against the Kachin and Shan “undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law”. These crimes include murder, imprisonment, enforced disappearance, torture, rape, sexual violence, persecution and enslavement.

Seven years after the Burmese army broke a 17-year ceasefire with the Kachin armed resistance group, known as the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), more than 106,000 civilians are displaced in Kachin and northern Shan states. A new report by the human rights group Fortify Rights, published four days after the UN’s report, accuses the military and civilian governments in Burma of colluding to “weaponise the denial of humanitarian aid to Kachin state”. The report, called “They Block Everything”, accuses the military and civilian governments of colluding to restrict aid to the Kachin state, leaving “tens of thousands of displaced civilians without adequate access to food, healthcare and shelter”.

The conflict between the Burmese army and the Kachin broke out in 1961, partly because the country’s leader at the time, U Nu, wanted to declare Buddhism the state religion. The vast majority of Kachins are Christians, and they objected to the central government’s policies of “Burmanisation” and Buddhist nationalism.

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