Friday, December 26, 2014

Rights groups urge army drop suit against grieving Kachin father

Ja Seng Ing, 14-year-old Kachin school girl was shot dead by Burma army on Sept. 13, 2012

A coalition of international human rights groups including Fortify Rights, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have called on the Burma army to drop a lawsuit against a Kachin man from Hpakant who is facing prison for filing a complaint with the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) over the shooting death of his 14-year-old daughter.  The call came in an open letter sent to President Thein Sein earlier this month. 

Brang Shawng, 49, faces at least two years in prison for submitting a complaint to the MNHRC that alleged that Burma army soldiers were responsible for killing his daughter, Ja Seng Ing, on 13 September 2012 in a jade rich corner of western Kachin state.  

According to Brang Shawng’s complaint his daughter was shot and killed in Sut Ngai Yang village, Hpakant Township by Burma army soldiers shortly after soldiers stationed in the area had been the target of a mine attack.   Burma army soldiers quickly responded to the mine explosion by launching heavy weapons and firing guns “indiscriminately” in and around Sut Ngai Yang village, according to a detailed account of the incident produced by Fortify Rights.

It was during this period that the Ja Seng Ing was shot in an area very near to where the mine was detonated, according to her father.  A major with the Burma army, Zar Ni Min Paik, launched a suit against Brang Shawng for what his complaint claims is Brang Shawng’s misrepresentation of the events that transpired that day.  According to Zar Ni Min Paik’s suit, Ja Seng Ing was in fact killed by a mine planted by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).  Fortify Rights and a group of ten Kachin community-based organizations, known as the Ja Seng Ing Truth Finding Committee dispute this claim.

“The nature of Ja Seng Ing’s injury and her reported physical position at the time of being wounded are inconsistent with the Myanmar Army’s assertions in documents filed with the court that a KIA mine killed her. Moreover, eyewitnesses interviewed by Fortify Rights claim to have seen two Myanmar Army soldiers loading their weapons approximately thirty feet from where a group of six women and girls, including Ja Seng Ing, were hiding. This was followed by gunfire aimed in the direction of those in hiding. Fortify Rights believes it is likely that one of the two soldiers fired the shot that killed Ja Seng Ing.”

The suit against Brang Shawng appears to be in direct retaliation for his submitting a complaint to the MHRC, a widely discredited organization set up by Thein Sein’s government on the advice of the United Nations and the European Union.  The MNHRC is led by Win Mra, who served as Burma’s ambassador to the United Nations from 1994 to 2001, during which time he vigorously defended the military’s regime’s human rights record and regularly objected to international criticism of Burmese army rule.  

“The criminal prosecution of Brang Shawng highlights a culture of disregard for human rights within Myanmar’s military, judiciary, and human rights commission,” says Fortify Rights Executive Director Matthew Smith. “The authorities should punish soldiers who commit crimes, not retaliate against individuals like Brang Shawng who seek truth and justice,” added Smith in a press release issued by his organization.


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