Two children who were bathing in a river were shot dead by the Burmese military, as they continue their offensive against a predominantly Christian ethnic group.
A five-year-old and a seven-year-old were gunned down on 5 May after being startled by a loud bomb blast. They had been bathing and playing in Ta Li river in Kachin state with another youngster. As the children tried to run to safety, Burmese soldiers opened fire, killing two of them.
The military later ordered villagers from Ta Li to say that the children were killed by a bomb detonated by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
Fighting between the military and the KIA, the military wing of the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO), which controls the territory, has been going on for nearly a year, since the military broke a 17-year ceasefire.
The conflict has displaced around 75,000 Kachin people, who are staying in overcrowded relief camps, and the Burmese government has blocked aid to troubled areas. Soldiers have attacked villages, razed houses and destroyed churches. Human Rights Watch found evidence that Burmese soldiers have tortured people under interrogation and raped women.
President Thein Sein ordered the army to stop its offensive in Kachin state on 10 December, but it has continued unabated; there have been reports of 126 clashes since then.
The world’s attention has been on Burma (Myanmar) recently as historic elections last month saw opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi win a parliamentary seat. Her National League for Democracy party won a landslide victory, taking 43 of the 44 seats it contested.
The elections have been hailed as evidence of a genuine move towards democracy in Burma, which ended decades of outright military rule last year. Hundreds of political prisoners have been released and opponents allowed to run for parliament.
The European Union has suspended sanctions against Burma in recognition, officials said, of “historic changes”. The United States has also said that it will ease selected sanctions.
But while there has undoubtedly been progress, there is still a very long way to go. Only 45 of the 664 seats in the Burmese parliament were contested in the April election, and it is still dominated by the army and its allies; one quarter of the seats are reserved for unelected military officials.
The military is extremely hostile to non-Burman ethnic minorities, as evidenced in Kachin state, and most Christians in Burma belong to these groups. As long as the military remains the dominant force in the country, Christians remain vulnerable to violence and hardship.
Barnabas Aid provides both practical and spiritual support to Christians in Burma, including help for Christian orphans and the provision of Bibles to Kachin and Chin Christians.
Source: Barnabas Aid