Human rights violations against civilians have not only continued unabated during the pandemic, they are increasing, according to the Humanitarian Strategic Team – Northern Shan State (HST-NSS). The group has been tracking killings and other violence committed by armed groups against civilians in northern Shan State since early this year.
Between February and August, 48 people were killed because of the conflict in northern Shan State. There were 25 shot dead and 23 killed by landmines. In addition, 26 people were injured. There were 20 hurt by landmines and 6 people by gunfire. The study found that 7 were tortured and 10 detained by armed groups, while two children were forcibly recruited. More than 1,280 people were displaced by the fighting or fear of upcoming clashes after the deployment of Burma Army troops.
On average, Houng Dau, from HST-NSS, said 13 violations were committed each month, with most occurring near Lashio, Kutkai, Hsipaw, Kyaukme, Namtu, Mangton, Namkham and Muse townships, all located in northern Shan State. “We don’t expect much from the peace process,” he said, explaining there’s no real indication of peace on the ground.
As for civilians caught in the middle of conflict zones, they’re living in a constant state of fear, the statement said. And since the pandemic struck, they face even greater challenges for their survival.
“They’re not getting enough assistance and the government isn’t providing them with any help,” Lway Loua Rong, spokesperson for HST-NSS, told SHAN. Meanwhile, “their situation is worsening during the pandemic.”
Prior to February, many IDPs survived by working as day laborers. But after the camps were locked down, residents can’t leave therefore they don’t have enough food.
Lway Loua Rong said that while peace negotiations are happening, human rights violations are occurring. “Whatever is discussed during peace negotiations doesn’t mean much if there’s still armed conflict in the ethnic areas,” she said. “I think it’s still a long time before peace happens.”
As coronavirus transmissions rapidly spread across the country, violence committed against civilians by armed forces in northern Shan State is rising, Houng Dau said, and he wants the suffering to end. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, I don’t think these human rights abuses should be happening, yet they are and this makes me very upset.”