With the exception of Kachin State and parts of Shan State, reports that government forces engaged in widespread and systematic violent abuses of noncombatant and civilian populations in ethnic minority border areas experiencing armed conflict decreased significantly compared with past years, largely due to a number of preliminary cease-fire agreements reached with ethnic armed groups (EAGs). The government signed preliminary cease-fire agreements with all major armed ethnic groups, with the exception of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Ethnic groups and government representatives continued to hold negotiations towards a formal nationwide cease-fire and an inclusive political dialogue. Nevertheless, clashes continued between the government and KIA despite continuing cease-fire negotiations.
Ethnic groups in Karen State reported an increase in the number of army troops along the border but noted that clashes decreased after the signing of a cease-fire with the government in 2012. There were sporadic armed clashes in Karen State between the army and the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army towards the end of the year. One NGO reported resumed fighting between the two forces displaced more than 2,000 villagers in October. Human rights organizations reported the military continued to commit rapes, torture, and other violent abuses. Contacts reported fewer instances of forced labor. According to groups in Mon and Karen states, different violations and abuses gained prevalence in areas with an increase in business, development, tourism, and natural resource extraction, including uncompensated damage to farms, land confiscation, and forced displacement by the military, local government officials, and security forces.
In Chin, Mon, and Kayah states, sources reported a decrease in armed clashes after the signing of preliminary cease-fire agreements with the government.
According to Fortify Rights, more than 100 army battalions have been deployed to Kachin State and northern Shan State since 2011. In Kachin and Shan states, continuing armed clashes between the government army and EAGs displaced thousands of persons despite a cease-fire agreement in Shan State and negotiations underway in Kachin State. For instance, on July 19-21, fighting between the government army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in northern Shan State displaced more than 800 persons, half of whom were children, and resulted in at least one person killed. An ethnic Palaung women’s group reported the displacement of more than 3,000 villagers in northern Shan State in 2013, with armed clashes continuing throughout the year. During the year the government and the Kachin Independence Organization reached an agreement to de-escalate troop numbers, establish a joint cease-fire monitoring mechanism, and return and resettle IDPs. Nevertheless, at year’s end more than 150 armed clashes were reported, according to Kachin groups and human rights NGOs. On November 19, the army shelled a KIA training camp, killing 23 cadets and injuring 20 others from the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, the Arakan Army, the CNF, and the TNLA. The government stated the attack was carried out as a “warning” after a KIA attack on army soldiers; the KIA denied its troops attacked Burmese soldiers.
The army continued to station forces in most ethnic groups’ areas and controlled certain cities, towns, and highways. There were continued reports of widespread abuses by government soldiers, including killings, beatings, torture, forced labor, forced relocations, and rapes of members of ethnic groups in Shan, Kachin, Mon, and Karen states. Impunity for these abuses and crimes continued. For instance, on January 30, three buried bodies with evidence of torture were discovered in a shallow grave in Nam Lim Pa village in Kachin. All three were believed to have been killed during a military offensive in late November 2013.
Killings: Military officials reportedly killed, tortured, and otherwise seriously abused civilians in conflict areas with impunity. Civilians also were killed through indiscriminate use of force. A number of civilian deaths in Kachin State occurred due to fighting between government troops and the KIA and the TLNA.
Abductions: There were multiple reports of government soldiers abducting villagers in conflict areas. On June 9, the Asian Human Rights Commission obtained information relating to the cases of two male IDPs who disappeared in 2012 in Palaung Dain Sar village in Kachin State, an area where government forces were active. A military leader told family members there were military forces moving to the frontline that day and they might have taken the two men as guides. The men’s whereabouts remained unknown.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: NGOs reports documented the military’s torture and beating of civilians alleged to be working with or perceived to be sympathetic to EAGs in Kachin and Shan states. There were also reports of forced labor, forced recruitment, and use of child soldiers by the KIA. According to Fortify Rights, the army shelled and razed civilian homes, attacked makeshift IDP camps, and entered villages while firing on civilians with small arms. Between June 2011 and April 2014, Fortify Rights documented incidents involving more than 60 victims of torture committed by army soldiers, military intelligence, and the Myanmar Police Force. Through interviews with torture survivors, the organization identified eight army infantry and light infantry battalions and divisions with soldiers who committed torture since June 2011, identified by the numbers 21, 37, 99, 242, 271, 437, 438, and 567. The organization noted that many more units likely committed torture.
A prominent civil society group reported that army soldiers committed numerous crimes of sexual violence against ethnic women and girls in ethnic states. A November report by the Women’s League of Burma documented 104 cases of sexual violence against women and girls in both cease-fire and noncease-fire areas between 2010 and January 2014. On January 26, in Mon State, Second Corporal Ye Min Tun attempted to rape Mi Cho and beat her severely. Mi Cho was hospitalized for many months for her injuries but did not press charges, due to fear of retaliation. Impunity for these crimes continued.
There was a significant decrease in reports of the military forcing civilians to serve as military porters, although there were reports that the military forced civilians to carry supplies in Shan, Karen, Mon, and Kachin states.
Armed actors, NGOs, and civilians inside the country and operating along the border with Thailand reported continued landmine use by the military and armed groups during the year, although reports of landmine use steadily decreased. Peace talks between the army, the KIA, and other ethnic armed groups likely accounted for the reduction in landmine use. The 2012 Landmine Monitor Report stated the country still suffered from extensive landmine contamination, with 47 of 325 townships affected by unmarked land mines. The government first publicly acknowledged that land mines were an impediment to peace and development in 2012. While the government and ethnic minority groups continued to discuss jointly landmine action, no land mines were removed. In 2013 the Ministry of Social Welfare, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and Danish Church Aid conducted a survey in five regions and provided the data collected to the regional governments. During the year the government undertook rapid assessment in IDP camps in Kachin and Shan states.
In 2013 state-level Mine-Risk Education (MRE) Working Groups, composed of state government representatives from various ministries, international NGOs, and local NGOs, were established in Kachin and Kayah states. During the year the Ministry of Social Welfare held three national MRE Working Groups meetings. Limited collaboration between the Myanmar Peace Center and the Social Welfare Department’s MRE Working Group, however, hindered the broader campaign for comprehensive landmine action.
Child Soldiers: Human rights activists, international NGOs, UN officials, and representatives from various ethnic regions reported the continued recruitment of child soldiers, despite military rules prohibiting enlistments of persons under 18 years of age.
Because government army recruiters were rewarded for the number of recruits without regard to legal status, children continued to be targets for forced recruitment, with child soldiers reported to be as young as 11 years of age. One of the tactics used by the army involved military recruiters reportedly approaching children found alone at bus and railway stations and in rural areas and asking for identification. If the children could not provide identification, recruiters threatened to imprison them unless they agreed to join the army. Alternatively, recruiters offered incentives, promising a good salary, continuing education, food rations for parents, and housing. In many cases vocational training, such as truck driving or carpentry, was promised, but victims were brought to the army battalion instead. Other children were simply abducted. The government investigated and released children from military service if the children or their families were aware of the law prohibiting child soldiering and exercised their right to file a complaint with the International Labor Organization (ILO) or petitioned for their child’s release directly to the government’s armed forces.
EAGs also reportedly continued to use forced recruitment and child soldiers and sometimes asked for ransom. There were multiple unconfirmed reports of the KIA forcibly recruiting members of the Taileng (also known as the Red Shan) ethnic group residing in Kachin State. According to the Shan Nationalities Affairs, the KIA had forcibly recruited 280 Shan children since 2011; of those, approximately 200 were not freed. One NGO reported the forcible recruitment of 70 youths in Myit Son by a KIA brigade on March 9.
During the year there was progress in implementing the 2012 joint plan of action between the government and the United Nations to cease the recruitment of child soldiers, and to demobilize and to rehabilitate those currently serving in the armed forces. Although recruitment and use of child soldiers continued, the military released 552 child soldiers. The United Nations reported the government improved in upholding its commitment in the action plan to allow UN monitors to inspect for compliance with agreed-upon procedures to cease recruitment of children and to implement processes for identification and demobilization of those serving in armed conflict. UN monitors were able to access some battalion-level military installations. The action plan was extended in December 2013.
The Ministry of Social Welfare, UNICEF, and other partners provided discharged children social assistance and re-integration support.
Since 2008 military officials in cooperation with UNICEF and the ILO trained military officers, including recruitment officers and officers up to the rank of captain, on international humanitarian law. UNICEF trained personnel assigned to the country’s four recruitment hubs and reported increased numbers of prospective child soldiers rejected at this stage. A prominent international NGO reported that the military demonstrated a growing commitment and willingness to raise internal and public awareness around the use and recruitment of children in the army.
Also see the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Other Conflict-related Abuses: Unlike in previous years, the government allowed the passage of relief supplies and provided humanitarian organizations access to conflict-affected areas of Kachin State. While local organizations generally had unhindered access to the 52,000 IDPs in nongovernment-controlled areas, international organizations and UN agencies could enter these areas on official missions only by following a government approval process. Access improved by midyear, and some international NGOs were allowed to open offices and place foreign staff in nongovernment-controlled areas. More than 100,000 persons remained displaced by conflict in Kachin State. In some cases villagers driven from their homes fled into the forest, frequently in heavily mined areas, without adequate food, security, or basic medical care (see section 2.d.).