UK trains army accused of raping children
Please read the following report I wrote for Sunday Mail newspaper that was published on 5th May 2014, although not online.
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Human rights groups have condemned the UK government for training a brutal army accused of raping children.
A new report by Burma Campaign UK said the Burmese Army uses rape as a weapon of war against innocent civilians.
Recent cases include a 12 year old girl raped in front of her mother and the rape of a disabled woman.
And victims of gang rapes by Burmese soldiers have been murdered.
Last year the UK government announced it would provide military training for the Burmese Army.
The controversial programme began in January this year when a UK team was sent to Burma to train top ranking officers.
Members of the UK’s Defence Academy were sent to train 30 members of the Tatmadaw and Burmese government.
Tatmadaw is the official name for Burma’s Armed Forces.
But Burma Campaign UK is calling for an international investigation into allegations of war crimes.
The human rights group’s report is called ‘Rape and Sexual Violence by the Burmese Army’.
Anna Roberts, executive director of Burma Campaign UK, said: “It is disgraceful that the British government is training the Burmese Army when their soldiers are committing rape with impunity. The best way to improve the Burmese Army is for soldiers to be jailed for committing human rights abuses. If soldiers and their commanders knew that for the first time they might be held accountable for the abuses they commit, this would have a real impact. The offer of training could have been made conditional on securing agreement from Burma to take action to end rape by the Burmese army, but it seems that no preconditions were set. The British government should be supporting an independent international investigation into rape and sexual violence committed by the Burmese Army, not training their soldiers.”
The Ministry of Defence said the project in Burma was to improve respect for human rights within the Burmese Army.
But since January there have been fresh allegations of rape and looting by soldiers.
An organization called Free Burma Rangers claimed that on 10 April 2014, a 17-year-old girl was raped by two soldiers in Daw Hpum Yang Township, Kachin State.
Free Burma Rangers also said that a village in Kachin was looted by Burmese forces on January 30th.
Human Rights Watch said: "There have been long standing and well documented reports for many years that the Burmese army perpetrates widespread sexual violence against women and young girls in ethnic conflict areas, often with utter impunity and denials. The Burmese government’s admission that it had investigated and punished eight perpetrators from the military is obviously fraction of the scale of this repugnant practice, and the Burmese military has a long way to go in tackling this problem and reigning its rampant troops in to accord to the rule of war. Even Ban Ki-moon recently called for an investigation by the Burmese government into sexual violence in conflict. Any engagement by the British military with the Burmese army has to take into account these ongoing abuses and limited to discussions until there is a demonstrable decrease in cases of sexual violence and reports of prosecution of offenders in civil courts are published."
Burma Campaign UK said the UK government ignored 133 civil society organisations in Burma who wrote to Prime Minister David Cameron last year.
The groups said there should be no engagement with the Burmese military until there were agreements made to uphold human rights.
An MOD spokesperson said: “The UK delivered a Defence reform course in Burma, to increase democratic accountability and respect for human rights within the Burmese military. Aung San Suu Kyi herself has asked for Britain's help in this area in order that we might influence the Burmese military with the very highest standards of the UK military’s ethos and values.”
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