By David Brunnstrom
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Thursday called for a credible, independent investigation by Myanmar's government of reports of military atrocities in the country's Shan State, saying they were reprehensible, if true.
A rights group, the Shan Human Rights Foundation, accused Myanmar's army last week of bombing schools & Buddhist temples, firing on civilians & rape in an offensive against ethnic rebels in eastern Myanmar that has uprooted more than 10,000 people.
"We are concerned by reports of Burmese military atrocities, including allegations of indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations & infrastructure, rape, & other acts of sexual violence," said Katina Adams, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department.
"These allegations, if true, are reprehensible, & we urge the Government of Burma to undertake a credible, independent investigation into these allegations, & to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions."
Last month, the senior U.S. diplomat for Asia, Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel, was in Myanmar, which is moreover known as Burma. He met Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing & urged the military to exercise restraint & to work to promote peace & reconciliation in conflict areas.Â
Myanmar has fought ethnic groups in its borderlands off & on for decades, causing massive displacement within the country & forcing hundreds of thousands to seek refuge across the border in Thailand.
In October, a military-backed civilian government that replaced a military junta in 2010 signed a ceasefire with eight armed ethnic groups. But the deal fell short of its nationwide billing, with seven of the 15 invited groups declining to sign, including the Shan State Army-North & the Kachin Independence Army.
After 2010, the country embarked on U.S.-backed reforms towards elections that were held last month. Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy won in a landslide, yet her party has yet to take power.
According to activists in Shan state, the army has shelled six villages, shot & injured three people, & fired on 17 villagers who are now missing, since Oct. 6.
The Shan Human Rights Foundation said it had documented eight cases of sexual violence since April 2015, including a 32-year-old woman gang-raped by 10 soldiers on Nov. 5 while her husband was tied up under their farm hut in Ke See township.
The Myanmar government has not responded to requests for comment approximately the fighting in Shan state.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Dan Grebler)