Australia pressured on Myanmar war crimes

Pat Griffiths

Australia is being asked to call out war crimes and human rights violations in northern Myanmar.

An long-running conflict between government forces and armed ethnic groups has displaced nearly 100, 000 civilians, Amnesty International claims.

"The international community is familiar with the appalling abuses suffered by the Rohingya minority in Myanmar's Rakhine state, but in Kachin and the northern Shan states, we found a similarly shocking pattern in the army's targeting of other ethnic minorities," Amnesty spokesperson Matthew Wells said on Wednesday.

Evidence of widespread torture, extrajudicial executions, the shelling of civilians and restrictions on movement and humanitarian access by the Myanmar Army are contained in the report.

There is also evidence of ethnic groups abducting civilians, forcibly recruiting men, women and children and imposing "taxes" on impoverished villages.

Amnesty has called on the Australian government to recommend the expansion of a UN fact-finding mission to investigate human rights abuses in the conflict.

The Myanmar Army has been in conflict with the Kachin Independence organisation for six years following the breakdown of a 17-year ceasefire.

The opposition's international development spokeswoman Moore said Australia had a strong record of calling out human rights abuses.

"Human rights are something every country must take seriously," she said.

Government minister Zed Seselja, who had recently visited the Thai-Myanmar border, said Australia had always used its position to advance human rights including resettling refugees.

"So we're certainly doing our bit when it comes to those who have fled persecution but when it comes to dialogue (Foreign Minister) Julie Bishop and other senior ministers will be engaged in that," he said.