A Kachin State member of the Union Parliament has called on the Burmese government to repeal a law that allows the government to arrest alleged supporters of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO).
Dwe Bu, a member of the Lower House representing the Unity and Development Party, said dozens of alleged KIO members or supporters have been arrested, during a time when the two sides are trying to negotiate a peace agreement.
Article 17/1 of the Unlawful Association Act has repeatedly been used by government authorities to arrest civilians since June 2011, when armed conflict resumed between the KIO and the Burma's military, according to an article on the Kachin News Group website. Many of those arrested have little or no ties with the KIO, said the article.
Dwe Bu said at least 29 people have been detained for allegedly violating the act, while other estimates place the figure at more than 100.
When the KIO and government authorities reached a cease-fire in 1994, the KIO was removed from the government’s unlawful organization list, but it was reinstated in October 2010 following the KIO refusal to transform its armed wing into a border guard force At the same time, state media began referring to the KIO as insurgents.
During peace talks, Railway Minister and peace negotiator Aung Min reportedly claimed that Article 17/1 had already been lifted for the KIO. However, the act is still being used to jail Kachin civilians, say human rights activists.
Dwe Bu, who serves as a member of the Parliament’s Internal Peace Making Committee, said she hopes parliament will repeal Article 17/1.
“Lack of ethnic political rights creates the non-stop armed struggles we’ve been facing,” she told KNG. “We have high losses as a result of the long, unending war. Right now, we are supposedly entitled to self-determination, but in reality we don’t have any.”
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