More From Alder's Ledge

September 9, 2013

Leave Nothing Behind

Rape, Pillage, and Plunder
(Part of The Darkness Visible series)

(The Defiant Ones)

In Myanmar's northern Kachin state there is a war that seems to never end. Generations of ethnic Kachin have come and gone as the war clouds continue to break up just enough to let a little hope in. Then just as the light of peace begins to shine down upon them, Burma's savage military darkens the sky with mortars and lights up the darkness with machine gun fire. For those who become trapped by the all encompassing hell that is this war the promise of peace is a faint memory now that the fighting has begun once more.

The level of brutality that the Kachin face as the Burmese military pushes them toward the border was once undocumented. It was intentionally kept from prying eyes as the Burmese pushed the Kachin refugees just within sight of the nation's borders. Yet today the barbarism that Myanmar has been practicing in the Kachin state can be hid no more.

The use of "black zones", established rape camps, mass executions, and slave labor have all been exposed as the most savage weapons that Myanmar has used against the Kachin people. These methodical tools of death have left the Kachin as a people without a homeland. When allowed to enter their lands they are treated as outsiders. In the few gaps of peace they have endured under Burma's regime the threat of these abuses has always lingered over their heads. Today these tools of war are back out and being used upon the killing fields that Thein Sein's military has prepared upon Kachin lands.

(Upon their backs, this war is fought. (Bodenham/AFP/Getty Images))

Black Zones

 The killers in black zones aren't always walking around stalking the prey. In these "no man's land" areas the most prolific killer doesn't even carry a gun. Instead it is buried just beneath the surface. Weeds and flowers can often grow up around it covering and concealing it's location. Yet once stepped upon this grotesque mangler of men arises in a ghastly eruption of sheer violence. 

Landmines kill and wound more civilians than any other form of explosive brought upon the battle field in the Burma's embattled northern states. These horrific weapons are the cornerstones of Burma's fatal grip upon lands where they have pushed ethnic minorities out. Through unrestricted placement the weapons make fields of death where crops once grew. Wherever they are placed they stay and wait to either be disarmed or detonated... there is nothing in-between the two.

Women and children who disperse at the sound of approaching soldiers are often the victims of these gruesome weapons. If they attempt to return to find anyone or anything the threat of military patrols, snipers, and the ever present landmine linger. Those who survive are left with scars, missing limbs, and trauma that plays itself out in their minds and dreams. 

Those who cannot flee the violence are treated as combatants regardless of their age or sex. Women and girls are traded as sexual slaves amongst the Burmese military till they are either killed or discarded. Men and boys are used as slave laborers if they are not first killed or killed after. Yet for the most part Kachin are able to flee since the Burmese military is slow and noisy in attempts to scare potential enemies off. 

Yet for all the Burmese military has to offer in these "conflict" (genocide) zones, the Kachin people also have to worry about rebel groups. Atrocities have been recorded on both sides of the battle lines. However for the most part the threat to Kachin civilians is not the gun or the bullet but once again the indiscriminate use of landmines by the rebel groups. 

Had this one weapon of war not been used there would be more Kachin men, women, and children alive today. Had the two sides refrained from this one form of barbarism there would be more children growing up today with parents, with all their limbs, without the trauma of watching people explode. Without this tool of torment the lives of hundreds of thousands of Kachin civilians would be better today. 

Of course the war would still be going on. The stubbornness of Myanmar's military regime and it's genocidal ambitions would not let the war end simply because mines were removed. Yet the ability of relief workers and aid agencies to reach the wounded would be drastically increased. Though the war would have continued to grind the Kachin peoples' hearts and souls the ability to provide hope would be much more available without the threat of landmines all across Northern Burma. 

Without the landmine the "black zones" would had been far more difficult to sustain. Without the ability to maim their victims endlessly the Burmese military would have had to extend itself far wider than it has. The demoralizing factor of endless war would have been far more affective had the landmine not filled the role of sentry on the lonely battle field. 

Yet all that is hard to prove and difficult to believe since we will never know for certain. All we know now is that Burma is continuing to use these black zones and supports them with continued placement of landmines across embattled regions. The silent killer that maims countless civilians remains upon the battlefield and new ones continue to join them there everyday. 

(The Most Vulnerable Victims Of War (Credit AP))

The Weapon Of Sex

In the Kachin State last June there were 18 reported rapes (some resulting in murder of the victim) committed by Myanmar's military against Kachin women. This was initially reported as an "up tick" in such sexual violence during the surge of battle in the Kachin State. However, with the continued violence that initial report has proven to be the least amount of such sexual violence that the Kachin women and girls could expect for the remaining duration of this genocide. 

Refugees across the region have reported either witnessing or being the victims of rape committed by the Burmese military. Their stories routinely indicate the use of gang rapes and organized rape camps by the Burmese soldiers. This form of torment, though at times ending in death, is meant to inflict generational scars upon the victims. And though the stories of survivors it is evident that the intent of the crime is not just effective but growing in the Kachin State. 

Rape as a weapon was well documented in Bosnia. The effects of the crime have been shown to last well after the genocide has been completed. No matter what the remaining portion of the victims life might bring, the rape at the hands of an enemy is both a personal and communal offense. If the woman is able to block the pain from her own mind the community often cannot. And regardless of the time that passes, the shame associated with the rape itself appears to linger in such a way that it can often be passed onto the next generation. 

In Bosnia rape was used to provide a cheap moral boost to the perverted ranks of the Serb militias. It offered the soldiers a chance to release their sexual desires while harnessing their aggression. The aggression came into the equation since rape is never simply about sex but also engages the desire of the attacker to dominate their victim. It then results into a barbaric display of sexualized violence that personalizes the entirety of the overall conflict and places the burden of the war upon the victim's flesh and spirit. 

For the Burmese military the use of rape as a weapon has been no different in the Kachin than it was for the Serbs in Bosnia. The delusion of "diluting the blood" of the ethnic minority still persist in Burmese soldiers as they target Kachin women in particular. The desire to inflict a lasting pain upon the targeted community is then personalized in such a way that the Kachin woman will bare the weight of societies hatred alone. She becomes powerless in a way that Burma's government would wish to apply to the Kachin people at large. 

The effects of rape upon the victim, their family, and community are the added bonus for the perverted society which perpetrates and harnesses this weapon. The scars that are affixed to the victim's flesh, spirit, and mind are the consequences that motivate generals to encourage the use of rape as a weapon of war. It is why the use of rape has been so prolific during broader acts of genocide. 

The Anchor Leg 

For over five decades the Kachin people have been running from these atrocities. Their parents, their grandparents, have run from these battles. Children have grown up and given birth to the next generation of battlefield children. Entire generations have grown up either displaced or continually running from battles imposed upon them by a government that was supposed to represent them. 

This endless war has been the anchor leg for a people that simply want the right to self-determination. They do not want to have their culture, their people, and their way of life taken from them at gun point. The only offense they have ever committed has been to cling to the desire to live free... to live in the way their ancestors had... to live upon the lands that their ancestors had fought to preserve for them. 

For five decades the world has looked away as the Kachin have struggled to cling to the fringes of Burmese society. For five decades the world has ignored the defiance in the voice of the Kachin people as they demand to be treated as humans and not the beasts of burden that Myanmar would make of them. Now they cling to existence as a supposedly reformed government commits the same sins against them that the last one did. Now they wait for the eyes of the world to turn to them, to open up our ears to listen to their cries, and see what they have suffered at the hands of tyrants. 

Once we have seen what they have had to bare under the heel of Myanmar will we look away? Will their cries have fallen upon deaf ears? Or will our hearts open to these oppressed and weary people? 

There are people who are working to bring relief to the Kachin people. Two of the organizations that most directly provide aid to the Kachin are Partners Relief and Development and The Free Burma Rangers. These two organizations provide for the Kachin people a sense of hope that shines through the dark clouds of war that continue to linger over the Kachin State. 

Alder's Ledge as an organization (small as we might be) openly donates to Partners Relief and Development through the pocketbook of the main author here. We donate monthly to the Arakan Relief to aid the Rohingya people. However we urge anyone who is reading this to visit the Partner's website and do your research. Then search your soul and decide how and if you would like to donate to their efforts. 

To donate directly to the Kachin you can select Partner's "Kachin Relief" in the donation tab. 

Doing this will allow you to join the Kachin in their anchor leg. It allows you to partner with the Kachin people and help ease their burden more directly than simply sending your best wishes. It gives you the chance to come alongside the Kachin people and take up a portion of their burden. It allows you to give them comfort in a time when they need it most. 

Want to do more? 

Scream for the Kachin people. By lending your voice to their cause you can spread awareness and increase the possibility that even more people will partner with the Kachin people. Your voice can bring more people into the race to save Kachin lives and ease their pain and suffering. 

All you have to do is share Partner's website and the stories you will find there. You can also share articles found here on Alder's Ledge on your social media outlets. This simple act can help you scream in such a way that those around you (and around the world) will have the chance to hear about the plight of the Kachin people. 

Still want to do more? 

Consider volunteering with Partners Relief and Development. By lending your skills, your talents, and your two hands to the cause you can help in ways that you might not imagine possible. It may very well get you into the race to help the Kachin people, literally.

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Source Documents 
(note: not all sources listed)


Burma News International 

Radio Free Asia

Times Colonist 

Kachin News

Free Burma Rangers

Asia Times

The Epoch Times

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