Burmese troops burned down around 50 homes in a village in eastern Kachin state two days ago as they prepare for an offensive against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), despite assertions from fleeing residents that no rebels inhabit the village.
In response, the KIA has told locals living in areas close to the town of Waingmaw to leave, prompting some 3,000 people to join those who fled the razed Aungja village as they make for the border with China.
A DVB reporter in Kachin state said that Burmese army battalions were closing in on the KIA’s Brigade 3 in Sanpai, which was being fiercely defended by the rebels.
“There were about 600 to 700 KIA troops in Sanpai and more reinforcements were arriving [on Thursday],” he said. Fighting there has been going on consistently for almost a month, and Burmese forces were also sending additional troops.
The burning of civilian villages is a key part of the army’s so-called Four Cuts strategy, which looks to sever lines of support and communication for Burma’s various ethnic armed groups. Many depend on support, including food and surveillance, from local populations.
Our reporter said that during the assault on the village, troops attacked a local pastor and his pregnant wife, who is now in hospital. Accusations have been levelled at the Burmese army that it is waging religious persecution against the predominantly Christian Kachin minority, fuelled by reports that it has attacked churches.
The razing of Aungja village comes one month after troops destroyed a number of houses in Namsan Yang village, also close to Waingmaw. Two inhabitants, U Lamalu, 30, and U Jamta, were shot dead, according to the KIA.
The Burmese military has been accused of war crimes in its offensives in Kachin state since June. A film released this week purports to show strong evidence that rape of ethnic women by Burmese troops is endemic, and could be a deliberate policy of the country’s military in its ongoing conflicts in the country’s border regions.
It findings supplement various reports released this year that document cases of rape by soldiers, notably the surveys carried out by the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT) which have found close to 40 incidents of sexual violence in the country’s war-torn northern state since fighting began.