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Thousands of Ethnic Lisu protest in Myanmar, demand Army to apologize for the Killings

The ethnic armed group, which controls large swathes of northeastern Kachin state, has regularly engaged in hostilities with the Myanmar army since a cease-fire agreement collapsed in 2011.

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Ethnic Lisu protest killings by the Kachin Independence Army in Myitkyina, capital of northern Myanmar's Kachin state, May 22, 2017. RFA
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Myanmar, May 28, 2017: Thousands of ethnic Lisu in Myitkyina, the capital of northern Myanmar’s Kachin state, protested on Monday against an ethnic armed group for violating human rights by indiscriminately arresting and killing civilians and extorting money from them.

The protesters also took issue with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the military wing of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) political group, for failing to apologize for killing the Lisu people, the protesters told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

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They demanded an apology from the KIA and pledges not to commit the same crimes in the future and to provide assistance to the families of those they killed.

Ethnic Lisu from the towns of Myitkyina, Waingmaw, Tanai, and Puta-O joined in the protest.

“They violate human rights, and they are unfair,” said Alay Phar Phar, a member of Lisu National Protest Committee. “They practice chauvinism when they deal with us.”

The KIA killed four Lisu people last year in the Sadon region of Kachin state as well as some this year, he said, adding that local residents have not yet been able to determine the number and identities of those who died.

RFA was unable to contact KIO leaders for comment.

The Lisu people are a Tibeto-Burman ethnic group who live in northern Myanmar, southwestern China, and parts of Thailand and India. Many are Christians. An estimated 600,000 Lisu live in Myanmar.

Because they inhabit mountainous areas largely covered by dense forests, they must rely on raising livestock and hunting to make a living in Buddhist-dominated Myanmar.

Armed clashes in Kachin

The KIA has been engaged in fighting with the national army in Kachin state, with the latest clash occurring on May 19 in Hpakant township, according to a report by the online journal The Irrawaddy.

The ethnic armed group, which controls large swathes of northeastern Kachin state, has regularly engaged in hostilities with the Myanmar army since a cease-fire agreement collapsed in 2011.

In November 2016, the KIA teamed up with three other ethnic armed groups—the Arakan Army (AA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)—to form the Northern Alliance.

The alliance then launched coordinated attacks on 10 government and military targets in three townships in neighboring Shan state and along the105-mile border trade zone between Myanmar and China in retaliation for government army offensives against its soldiers.

The fighting resulted in heavy losses on both sides and displaced tens of thousands of civilians.

The protest by the Lisu in Kachin state comes as the Myanmar government gets ready to hold the second round of key peace talks known as the 21st Century Panglong Conference with various ethnic militias on May 24.

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The KIA is not a signatory to the government’s nationwide cease-fire agreement signed with eight ethnic armed groups in October 2015.

State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, who is spearheading the peace initiative, previously said all ethnic armed groups would be invited attend, but the KIA has suggested that it would not take part if it was invited only as an “observer” to the summit, The Irrawaddy said. (RFA)

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Drone and Satellites Expose Myanmar’s Pain

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Rohingya refugee
An Oct. 5, 2017 image taken from a video released by Arakan Rohingya National Organization shows villagers preparing to cross a river towards the Maungdaw township in the Rakhine state that borders Bangladesh.

London- The Rohingya refugee crisis is an age-old tale of displacement and suffering, but technology is providing new tools to tackle it, rights groups and charities said on Wednesday.

Powerful drone and satellite images are bringing to life the urgent needs of more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees who fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar, while also providing strong evidence of abuses, which could be used to lobby for justice.

“We can describe for hours the large numbers of refugees crossing the border and how quickly existing camps have expanded, but one image captures it all,” said Andrej Mahecic, a spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR).

More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh since the military in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar launched a counter-insurgency operation after attacks on security posts by Rohingya militants in late August.

The UNHCR is using videos and photographs shot with drones to show the scale of the displacement crisis and bring it to life to spur action from the public and donors.

It is also using satellites to count and identify refugee families by their location in the Bangladesh camps to target assistance to those most in need, Mahecic told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an email.

The use of drone footage of refugees entering Bangladesh has boosted donations for medical care, water and food, according to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), an alliance of 13 leading British aid agencies.

Rights monitors also hope satellite images can provide evidence that to help bring perpetrators to justice.

Satellite photos were used in the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to prove mass executions in 1995 in Srebrenica.

But the technology has yet to achieve its potential because of limited budgets and a lack of standardised methodologies accepted by courts, experts say.

Human Rights Watch has shared satellite images showing the burning of almost 300 villages in Myanmar, refugees’ mobile phone footage and their testimonies with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

“We have found the debris field in satellite imagery where people were executed, corroborating multiple eyewitness statements,” said Josh Lyons, a satellite imagery analyst with the U.S.-based rights group.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has called the violence against Rohingya in Myanmar “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” and his office is working to determine whether it meets the legal definition of genocide.(VOA)