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VICE News

Myanmar Troops Allegedly Tortured Civilians and Forced Them to Lick Their Own Blood

The report includes examples of forced labor, torture, and unlawful killings allegedly committed by Myanmar troops.

by Danny Gold
Jun 10 2014, 12:22pm

Photo via Fortify Rights International

Shocking new details of torture allegedly committed by government troops in Myanmar are detailed in a new report released Monday by a Thailand-based NGO.

Released to coincide with the third anniversary of renewed conflict between the government and Kachin separatists, the report includes examples of forced labor, torture, and unlawful killings.

Fortify Rights International, alleges that Myanmar authorities habitually and systematically tortured civilians believed to be aligned with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an ethnically based rebel group operating in Kachin and Shan States in northern Myanmar.

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Prior to the renewal of tensions three years ago, a 17-year-old truce had been in place following 33 years of fighting. The rebel group formed in 1961 as a response to alienation and mistreatment from the central government military regime.

Titled, "'I Thought They Would Kill Me:' Enduring Wartime Torture in Northern Myanmar," the report is based on 78 interviews with witnesses and victims of abuses.

“Torture appears to be carried out with the knowledge and consent of senior military offices,” the report states.

There is evidence of 60 civilians that had been tortured over a nearly three year period.

“Next to nothing is being done to stop the abuses, let alone hold perpetrators accountable, and that needs to change if Myanmar is ever going to find peace in ethnic territories,” wrote Matthew Smith, the author of the report, in an email to VICE News.

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In one instance, eight farmers were beaten and forced to lick pools of their own blood off the ground.

Others were beaten and then told to dig their own graves, then released. Bamboo was laid on shins and heads and jumped on by government forces.

“Myanmar authorities routinely resorted to torture to retaliate against civilians with a perceived sympathy for the KIA,” the report said.

Additionally, there is a level of ethnic and religious context to the torture, as the predominantly Christian Kachin have suffered anti-Kachin and anti-Christian rhetoric during abuses.

“You are Kachin, and we will kill all the Kachin. Even if the women are pregnant, we will kill them,” one torturer allegedly told his victim.

The Kachin Independence Army are the second largest non-state ethnic army in Myanmar. All but one of the 16 rebel ethnic-minority armies in Myanmar have signed peace treaties recently with the government.

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Since the fighting began again in 2011, nearly 100,000 civilians have been displaced, with many fleeing into nearby China. Peace talks are ongoing but have been unsuccessful.

“Myanmar’s future hangs in the balance, and what happens in Kachin state will affect the entire country,” added Smith. “The other ethnic armies are watching the Kachin conflict closely.”

Smith said the report had been received by the president’s office but they had not received a response yet.

Presidential spokesman Ye Htut dismissed the report in an interview Monday with the Democratic Voice of Burma.

“I haven’t read all the Fortify Rights report in detail yet,” Htut told the DVB. “But according to the last experience [we had] with the group, they are writing news stories with second-hand experience, not based on not fully verified information on the ground.”