ND-Burma decides to initiate Unofficial Truth Project at 26th Network Meeting

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dsc_2063The Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma (ND-Burma) held its 26th Network Meeting from 6th to 8th July, 2013. ND-Burma is a coalition of eight member organizations and three affiliated organizations engaged in documentation of human rights violations in Burma.

During the meeting all members decided to expand ND-Burma’s presence in Burma through the initiation of an Unofficial Truth Project (UTP). The UTP aims to provide a way for victims of human rights violations to tell their stories and push the general public and the government to acknowledge past human rights violations. Many victims continue to suffer from past and ongoing abuses. The project aims to provide a basis for the government to provide reparations, especially to those with urgent needs. In the long term, the aim is to prevent serious human rights violations. Acknowledging the truth of what has happened to victims of human rights violations is a necessary step in understanding how to break from the past. The UTP will help Burmese society learn lessons from our past to build a more peaceful future.

Lian Bawi Thang, a member of the UTP team and project officer at Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), says, “In contemporary Burma, the term ‘truth commission’ or ‘truth-seeking’ might scare some people. While members of the previous military junta are afraid to be sued, there is also a worry that the military will re-take power in a coup if high-ranking officials feel under threat.” He continued, “ND-Burma’s aim in initiating an Unofficial Truth Project is not to create more conflict between perpetrators and victims, but rather to establish a peaceful coexistence that will move the country forward. Acknowledgment of the human rights violations that have occurred is needed for long-term peace.”

For the Unofficial Truth Project to be successful it will require the participation of a wide range of stakeholders. ND-Burma will collaborate with victims of human rights violations, other civil-society organizations documenting violations, as well as technical experts in the field of transitional justice. The International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) will provide technical support to ND-Burma during the implementation of the UTP.

Since March 2013, ND-Burma has been present in Burma working out of liaison office in Yangon. During these four months, the liaison office has conducted several trainings with a range of stakeholders, including the Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Network (HRDP), as well as attending the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission’s occasional presentation.

During the recent Network Meeting, elections were held for new ND-Burma management board members. The new management board members are Ko Tate Naing (Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, AAPP), Nai Awe Mon (Human Rights Foundation of Monland, HURFOM), Seng Sha Dan (Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand, KWAT), Saw Eh Khu Thu (Burma Issues), and Lian Bawi Thang (Chin Human Rights Organization, CHRO). Management board members serve for a term of one and half years.

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