CHIANG MAI, Thailand, Sept. 26 (UPI) -- Sexual violence and torture against ethnic communities are on the rise in northern Myanmar, a rights official said from Thailand.
As of September, the number of reported rape cases increased to 37 in parts of Kachin state, with at least 18 cases reported in an eight-day period in June.
"The use of sexual violence is one of the most serious within a whole litany of abuses that include forced labor, torture and ill-treatment and extrajudicial execution," David Scott Mathieson, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, told the United Nations' humanitarian news network IRIN.
The military in Myanmar claims to have troops in the north to convince armed ethnic groups to come under a single authority. As many as 25,000 people were displaced by related conflict and critics say the military presence is part of a power grab for potential hydroelectric projects near the border with China.
Human Rights Watch, in a report with the Karen Human Rights Group, accused the military in Myanmar of torturing, executing and using convicted prisoners as human shields.
Tomas Ojea Quintana, the U.N. special envoy for human rights in Myanmar, in his latest report on the country, said the government there had made steps needed to usher in a genuine transition to democracy but many human rights issues remain.