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The Burden of War: Women bear burden of displacement

By: Palaung Women’s Organization
Publication date: 5 November 2012

Press Statement: Burmese

PWO 2012 report Burden of War

English

Worsening conflict and abuses by Burmese government troops in northern Shan State have displaced over 2,000 Palaung villagers from fifteen villages in three townships since March 2011. About 1,000, mainly women and children, remain in three IDP settlements in Mantong
and Namkham townships, facing serious shortages of food and medicine; most of the rest have dispersed to find work in China.

Burmese troops have been launching offensives to crush the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA),
and the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), to secure control of strategic trading and investment areas on the Chinese border, particularly the route of China’s trans-Burma oil and gas pipelines. In rural Palaung areas, patrols from sixteen Burma Army battalions and local militia have been forcibly conscripting villagers as soldiers and porters, looting livestock and property, and torturing and killing villagers suspected of supporting the resistance. This has caused entire villages to become abandoned.

Interviews conducted by PWO in September 2012 show that the burden of displacement is falling largely on women, as most men have fled or
migrated to work elsewhere. The ratio of women to men of working age in the IDP camps is 4:1. Women, including pregnant mothers, had to
walk for up to a week through the jungle to reach the camps, carrying their children and possessions, and avoiding Burmese army patrols and
landmines. Elderly people were left behind.

Little aid has reached the IDP settlements, particular the largest camp housing over 500 in a remote mountainous area north of Manton, where shortages of water, food and medicines are causing widespread disease. Mothers are struggling to feed their families on loans of rice from local villagers, and have taken their daughters out of school. Some women have left children with relatives and gone to find work in China.

PWO is calling urgently for aid to these IDPs, and for political pressure on Burma’s government to end its military offensives and abuses, pull
back troops from conflict areas, and begin meaningful political dialogue to address the root causes of the conflict.