Dismissed & Denied: Civic Rights Undermined In the 2020 Pre-Election Landscape

On November 8 2020 nearly 40 million people, including 5 million first time voters, will vote in Myanmar’s 2020 general election. With 1,171 national, state and regional seats to win,1  and over 90 political parties2  vying for them – competition during the campaign period has been fierce. Against the backdrop of the candidates’ commitments are thousands of voters who are living in conflict areas and struggling to recover economically from the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Key stakeholders including the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) government, the Burma Army, Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs), the Union Election Commission (UEC) and international governments and organizations have a responsibility to ensure all citizens have the equal right to vote and equal right to be elected.  Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that ‘everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives.’3 The failure to uphold basic human rights principles and electoral values in the midst of political campaigning in Burma has resulted in the continued persecution of ethnic people, especially ethnic political parties, and further enabled deeply rooted systemic discrimination.

This briefing paper by the Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma (ND-Burma) is a research-based analysis of the 2020 pre-election landscape about how rights were abused and manipulated in the midst of COVID-19, and internal armed conflict between the months of August 25 2020 and 25 October 2020. By drawing on the various articles in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)4  and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights5 (ICESCR), ND-Burma will demonstrate how the failure to uphold democratic values enshrined in both covenants contributes to the lack of legitimacy and integrity of the 2020 election.

Infographic PDF

Dismissed & Denied: Civic Rights Undermined In the 2020 Pre-Election Landscape by the Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma Shows Disregard of Political and Civic Rights by Election Stakeholders

New Briefing Paper, Dismissed & Denied: Civic Rights Undermined In the 2020
Pre-Election Landscape by the Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma Shows Disregard of Political and Civic Rights by Election Stakeholders

For Immediate Release

4 November 2020: The Network for Human Rights Documentation (ND-Burma) is concerned about the integrity and transparency of the upcoming general election, which is set to take place on 8 November 2020.  Research based analysis between the months of August 25 2020 and 25 October 2020 by ND-Burma shows a hostile pre-election environment in our latest briefing paper, Dismissed & Denied: Civic Rights Undermined In the 2020 Pre-Election Landscape.

Among our findings, key stakeholders in the lead up to the general election specifically targeted ethnic parties, and marginalized ethnic groups. The campaign period was further compromised by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and armed conflict across the region. Moreover, the experiences of ethnic parties and candidates, as well as villagers were analyzed through the articles in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Despite several articles set out by both the ICCPR and the ICESCR, voter disenfranchisement was widespread by state and non-state actors during the campaign period, which began on 8 September 2020. This includes the announcement by the Union Electoral Commission (UEC) to cancel the election in 581 village tracts (56 townships), predominantly in Rakhine State, which has serious implications for the over one million people who are now unable to vote. The decision shows a deliberate disregard for civil rights and political engagement, including the right to vote as stated in Article 25 of the ICCPR.

ND-Burma notes several other examples in the briefing paper, including limitations faced by female candidates and barring several Muslim candidates from running in the election without justification. The policing of freedom of speech and increased use of censorship by the UEC had significant impacts on political parties running on platforms critical of the government and the UEC. International stakeholders also threatened the integrity of the election with prejudiced language alienating ethnic candidates through voting applications.

Further, ND-Burma members are worried for the future of the most vulnerable in the country, especially given the unequal political arena across the campaign period. Our members call for much needed, and long overdue reforms to the UEC, as they have failed to preserve and protect civic rights. Further, we call on the winning political party to listen to the voices of the people in Burma. Their longstanding calls for peace and democracy must be listened to, as to ensure their concerns are met with policies and practices that protect them.

Media Contact

U Aung Zaw Oo

Association Human Rights Defenders and Promoters

+95 942 103 9493

Lway Poe Jay
Ta’ang Students and Youth Union (TSYU)
Ph No.: +95 926 416 2229


ND-Burma is a network that consists of 13-member organisations who represent a range of ethnic nationalities, women and former political prisoners. ND-Burma member organisations have been documenting human rights abuses and fighting for justice for victims since 2004. The network consists of nine Full Members and four Affiliate Members as follows. 

Full Members:

  1. All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress 
  2. Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
  3. Association Human Rights Defenders and Promoters 
  4. Future Light Center 
  5. Human Rights Foundation of Monland
  6. Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand
  7. Ta’ang Women’s Organization
  8. Ta’ang Students and Youth Union
  9. Tavoyan Women’s Union 

 Affiliate Members:

  1. Chin Human Rights Organization
  2. East Bago – Former Political Prisoners Network
  3. Pa-O Youth Organization
  4. Progressive Voice


Infographic PDF 


 

Justice Newsletter (October 2020)

Summary Overview

Election campaigning was in full swing this month. As political parties campaigned despite constraints including the COVID-19 pandemic, efforts continued to reach different communities and regions. Meanwhile, conflict in Rakhine and northern Shan states increased, leading to more civilian casualties, injuries and arbitrary arrests. For those campaigning in areas where conflict and the pandemic threatened civilian security, the decision by the Union Election Commission to cancel the election is 56 townships has resulted in ‘shock and anger’ among regional political parties in a move that strips voting rights of over 1 million people. The shortcomings have led to disappointment to hopes that the election would be fair, and what political commentator San Wansai called, a ‘strangulation of political space.’

Of additional concern following suit with worrying practises amid the campaign period was the detainment of three National League for Democracy (NLD) candidates who were abducted by the Arakan Army (AA) and accused of ‘collaborating and covering up war crimes committed by the Myanmar Army.’ The AA added that the prisoners would only be released if and when the government released all innocent people who have been arrested and wrongfully detained for demanding peace. The NLD has said they are unable to meet these demands and in response, the AA said the candidates would not be released anytime soon.

The integrity of the general election is at stake. There cannot be transparency when over one million voters are disenfranchised in the process. There cannot be accountability when there is mass discrimination, denial and dismissals of ethnic candidates on the basis of religion, gender and politics.

Meanwhile, cases of COVID-19 continue to rise steadily. In a recent report by OCHA Myanmar, as of 23 October, there was a reported a total of 41,008 cases, including 1,005 fatalities and 21,144 recoveries, have been confirmed across the country. On 10 October, there were 2,158 COVID-19 confirmed cases – the highest number reported in a single day so far.

 

Rakhine State

Villagers Arrested, Detained on Suspicion of AA Ties | 5 October 2020

Two more villagers of Padar village in Taungup Township were arrested by the Burma Army for the suspected affiliation with the Arakan Army. The number of people detained by the Burma Army on suspicion of having links to the Arakan Army from July to Sept 2020 increased by at least 40, according to a Development Media Group tally.

Rakhine State IDPs Exceeds 36,000 | 5 October 2020

According to the Rakhine Ethnic Congress, nearly 40 000 people have been displaced by fighting since August. Villages have been sent ablaze, and civilians have been killed and injured in shelling in a situation that continues to destabilize.

Woman Struck by Shrapnel as Conflict Wages in Rakhine | 5 October 2020

Fighting between the Burma Army and the Arakan Army continues unabated with COVID-19 cases rising in conflict torn Rakhine. One woman, 53, received treatment after being struck by shrapnel as locals live in anxiety and fear of the virus and warfare.

Five Rohingya Killed, Including Two Children | 6 October 2020

A devastating shooting incident in Buthidaung township killed 5 Rohingya, including two children. The casualties are the latest in a conflict that has killed nearly 300 and injured 657 since December 2018, according to a Radio Free Asia tally.

Evidence by Amnesty International Shows Attacks on Civilians | 12 October 2020

Evidence by Amnesty International shows indiscriminate attacks against civilians in Rakhine State, including children who have been killed and injured in a series of human rights violations as the suffering of innocent people continues. Fighting between the Arakan Army and the Burma Army shows no signs of abating. According to the UN Country Taskforce on Monitoring and Reporting on Grave Violations against Children in Myanmar, over 100 children have been killed in conflict from January to March 2020 – more than half of total number in 2019 and more than all child casualties in 2018.

 

Shan State

Shan Civilians Seek Shelter After Fighting | 7 October 2020

Over 700 IDPs are taking refuge at a monastery in northern Shan state following an outbreak of fighting between the Burma Army and the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS). A lack of space and food has been difficult for villagers forced to flee who remain incredibly fearful for their future.

Civil Society Organizations Call for Ceasefire | 9 October 2020

Human rights organizations and civilians are calling for a ceasefire in northern Shan state following an increase in frequent clashes. They are concerned for their safety amid the election and global pandemic. They’re calling for an immediate end to the ongoing war in Shan State, as over 1000 IDPs are in need of aid. There were five clashes between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Burma Army, despite the extension of the unilateral ceasefire in September. Civilians were not put at ease with the Burma Army sending reinforcements by helicopters with military equipment and troops to northern Shan state.

Villager Homes Looted in Kyaukme Township | 19 October 2020

Civilians who fled their homes after fighting between the RCSS and the Burma Army returned to their villages to see belongings and livestock looted. Over 3500 villagers were displaced in October. They’re staying at seven monasteries in the area, as they are forced to put their livelihoods on hold. More updates from the Shan Human Rights Foundation show the extent of the war’s impacts on Shan civilians.

 

Chin State

Women Killed by Landmine Near Paletwa | 8 October 2020

The latest human rights violation documented by ND-Burma affiliate member, the Chin Human Rights Organization, was an incident where a woman on her way to the hospital was killed by a landmine near Paletwa: “I had hoped her life could be saved if she was transported immediately after the incident.”

Central Chin Youth Organization Calls for Release for Civilian | 7 October 2020

CCYO is calling for the release of a civilian, Salai Aung Soe, who has been detained by the Arakan Army since June 2020. They’re demanding his release and calling on armed groups to not detain Chin people or Chin youth in the future.

Civilians Forced to Meet Demands of Arakan Army | 20 October 2020

Community members from two village tracts in Paletwa are experiencing ongoing arbitrary demands from the Arakan Army. The Chin Human Rights Organization says local people are struggling to meet the requests under lockdown, without secure livelihoods.

 

Karen State

Villagers Panic as Burma Army Establishes Presence | 2 October 2020

An increase in soldiers in Burma Army camps near their village has locals worried it could increase tensions with armed organisations in the area and spark conflict.

 

Freedom of Expression

Activists Unfairly Arrested, Targeted | 7 October 2020

Important documentation coming from freedom of expression organization, Athan, showing that among the activists who campaigned against the internet shutdown in Rakhine and Chin states, 58 were prosecuted in 28 incidents violating freedom of expression. These alarming numbers which have forced many other activists into hiding.

Over Thirty University Students Go into Hiding for Activism

Over 30 university students have gone into hiding and another 14 were arrested for protesting the civil war in Rakhine state. Students have been particularly active in their calls for an end to the fighting where thousands have been impacted. They should be released immediately.

In an act of solidarity, over 180 civil society organisations issued a joint statement condemning the arrests of the students for protesting against the civil war in Rakhine and Chin States, and called for an immediate and unconditional release of the students.

 

Member update:

The Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) joined a panel discussion hosted by the US Campaign for Burma to discuss how IDPs in Mon State have been disenfranchised by the 2020 election.

HURFOM also released a new report on the electoral challenges facing remote communities, people with disabilities, first-time youth voters, and those living in armed controlled areas in southern Burma amid the 2020 election.

Affiliate member, Progressive Voice (PV), published a joint report with civil society organizations including ND-Burma members the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand and the Ta’ang Women’s Organization on tackling hate speech in the lead up to Burma’s 2020 general election.

PV also released a new briefer called “A Vote with No Confidence: Myanmar’s 2020 General Elections and the Rights of Ethnic and Religious Minorities.”

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) has been documenting cases in relation to the pandemic. In September a total of 1902 people were charged/convicted due to COVID-19 conditions.

AAPP also called for the immediate and safe release of the three NLD candidates arrested by the Arakan Army and urged a dialogue to take place between the government, the military and ethnic armed organizations for an immediate end to the ongoing fighting in Rakhine.

The Ta’ang Women’s Organization (TWO) was quoted in Network Media Group on the challenges civil society organizations are facing when documenting human rights violations in the middle of a pandemic and conflict. Lway Poe Kamae Cho, joint secretary-one of TWO said that civilians face the threat of the virus, as well as human rights violations during the fighting. But under the current travel restrictions, civilians don’t have freedom of movement, while soldiers can travel wherever they want.

ND-Burma is a network that consists of 13-member organisations who represent a range of ethnic nationalities, women and former political prisoners. ND-Burma member organisations have been documenting human rights abuses and fighting for justice for victims since 2004. The network consists of nine Full Members and four Affiliate Members as follows:

Full Members:

  1. All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress 
    2.     Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
    3.     Association Human Rights Defenders and Promoters 
    4.     Future Light Center 
    5.     Human Rights Foundation of Monland
    6.     Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand
    7.     Ta’ang Women’s Organization
    8.     Ta’ang Students and Youth Union
    9.     Tavoyan Women’s Union 

 Affiliate Members:

  1. Chin Human Rights Organization
    2.     East Bago – Former Political Prisoners Network
    3.     Pa-O Youth Organization
    4.     Progressive Voice

 

 

AA extort Paletwa villagers, issue forced labour demands

(Paletwa Township, Chin State – 20 October 2020)   

Community members from two village tracts in northern Paletwa Township have complained of ongoing arbitrary demands being issued by the Arakan Army (AA) since 14 Sept 2020. Villagers from Nga Shar, Kyaung Chaung, Auk Baungwa, Nung Bu Kyi and Nung Bu Nge village’s informed CHRO of instances of forced labour and extortion:

“Beginning on 14 September 2020, the AA began forcibly collecting two baskets of rice (approx. 10 kg) per household from five villages in Nga Shar village tract along the Kaladan River in Paletwa Township. Local people are then transporting the rice to locations in the forest near their camp. The AA members have been collecting this tax since 14 September. The local villagers have been asked to give two baskets of rice per household or pay the sum of 10,000 MMK (approx. 8 USD) in place of the rice demand. Then, local people have to transport the rice to a place near Nga Thein village, the villagers got paid 2000 MMK (approx. 2 USD) for transporting the rice. They [AA] demanded rice from Nga Shar Village Tract and Ye Chan Thar village in Kone Taw Village Tract,” said one community member who agreed to speak to CHRO on condition of anonymity.

Another source added that elsewhere in the area AA members have only been paying villagers 40,000 MMK (approx. 30 USD) for a bag (approx. 50 kg) of rice which at current market rate costs locals 75,000 MMK (approx. 60 USD). Compounding the situation, at present villagers are limited in the amount of rice that can be purchased, determined by local authorities. This amount is based on a household registration after receiving the approval of the village tract administrators and with permission from the Paletwa Township Office of the General Administrative Department (GAD). After this process is complete, the quantity of rice that a person may buy for their household is determined.

In relation to the AA soldiers forcibly collecting rice from local villagers, Salai Kyaw Aung, Secretary of the Chin Internally Displaced People (IDP) Support Committee said that “local people are affected from COVID-19 lockdown measures and movement restrictions and I also would like to say that the AA members are not sympathetic to the local people as they are forcibly collecting rice from the people at a time when transportation is blocked on all sides [river and road]. This situation is not new and the local people have always suffered in the past as well.”

Nga Shar Village Tract is a five-hour boat ride from Paletwa. The 5 villages under Nga Shar village tract are; Nga Shar (109 households), Kyaung Chaung (56 households), Auk Baungwa (4 households), Nung Bu Kyi (30 households) and Nung Bu Nge (74 households).

 

For media inquiries please contact:
Salai Lian, +95 (0) 9450 687 296 (English/Burmese)
Salai Terah, 09255934177 (Burmese)

CHRO

UN urged to take action against Myanmar over civilian abuses

First-hand testimonies and images obtained by Amnesty show the Myanmar military’s ‘utter disregard for civilian suffering’ in Rakhine, Chin states.

Myanmar’s armed forces, also known as Tatmadaw, have been battling the Arakan Army, a rebel group seeking greater autonomy for the country’s western region, including Rakhine and Chin states [File: Hein Htet/EPA]

Amnesty International has called on the United Nations Security Council to take urgent action against Myanmar before the International Criminal Court, amid mounting evidence of military abuses, including indiscriminate firing at civilians in the continuing conflict with armed Arakan rebels.

In a report released on Monday, Amnesty said that first-hand testimony, photographs and video evidence obtained by the group show the Myanmar military’s “utter disregard for civilian suffering” in areas at the epicentre of the fighting.

“There are no signs of the conflict between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar military abating – and civilians continue to bear the brunt,” said Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns.

Ming Yu Nah said the violations were growing “more shocking and brazen by the day”.

Several incidents involving civilians injured or killed by landmines and bombardments have been reported in Chin and Rakhine states in recent weeks.

One of the most recent instances was on September 18, when a 44-year-old Chin woman was killed after stepping on a landmine while collecting bamboo shoots near a Myanmar military base in Paletwa.

In another incident on September 8 in Rakhine, a worker in Myebon township reported hearing heavy fighting that killed his wife and their daughter.

Myanmar’s armed forces, also known as the Tatmadaw, have been battling the Arakan Army, a rebel group seeking greater autonomy for the country’s western region, including Rakhine and Chin states.

Rakhine is also home to tens of thousands of mostly Muslim Rohingya, many of whom were forced to flee to Bangladesh after a separate military crackdown in 2017.

Military tagged in attack

The witness whose wife and child were killed in September told Amnesty that there were no Arakan Army rebels in the area where the attack took place. Villagers believe the heavy weaponry was fired from a Myanmar military base in a nearby town.

Three other ethnic Rakhine civilians were also killed, including two seven-year-old children.

By one local civil society group’s estimate, the number of civilians already killed in this conflict since December 2018 in Rakhine and Chin states stands at 289, with 641 injured, Amnesty said.  Tens of thousands of others have been displaced.

Since December 2018, there have been at least 289 people killed and 641 injured in the fighting in Chin and Rakhine states, according to Amnesty [File: Nyunt Win/EPA]

Both the Myanmar military and the rebels use anti-personnel devices in the fighting, and as such, definitively establishing provenance of the attacks is not possible at all times, Amnesty noted.Current restrictions on access also preclude on-the-ground documentation efforts, it added.

A mobile internet shutdown and government crackdown on media reporting also make it difficult to independently verify the claims of witnesses.

But according to Amnesty, in July 2020 it was able to document “indiscriminate airstrikes and shelling” by the military, which also left fatalities and injuries, including of minors.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet had also told the Human Rights Council in recent months that in Rakhine State, civilians “appear to have been targeted or attacked indiscriminately, which may constitute further war crimes or even crimes against humanity”.

Sex abuse

In yet another incident on September 11, the Myanmar military admitted that three of its soldiers had raped an ethnic Rakhine woman during operations in Rathedaung township in June.

In a statement on the incident, the military later publicly named the victim but not the perpetrators.

“Even when the Myanmar military are compelled to admit wrongdoing, their handling of this appalling sexual violence case shows a complete neglect for accountability,” said Ming Yu Hah of Amnesty.

 

Amnesty said on Monday said that children were among people killed in an alleged indiscriminate attack by the military against ethnic minorities in Rakhine and Chin states in recent weeks [File: Hein Htet/EPA]

“These shocking events speak volumes about the Tatmadaw, and how deep the assumption of impunity runs within its ranks.”

According to Amnesty, satellite analysis and new witness testimony also suggested that Myanmar soldiers burned a village in central Rakhine in early September.

One witness also told Amnesty that soldiers launched an assault on another village, Hpa Yar Paung in Rakhine, on September 3.

A spokesperson for the Myanmar military, Major General Zaw Min Tun, told journalists a police vehicle was attacked by the Arakan Army with a remotely detonated improvised explosive device (IED) near the village.

According to Amnesty, the military was also seen arresting two Rakhine men from the village that evening. Their bodies were later found near the river with gunshot wounds the next morning.

“The international community must raise the alarm about the situation in Rakhine state now, or face questions later about why they failed to act – again,” said Ming Yu Hah.

SOURCE : AL JAZEERA

Justice Newsletter (September 2020)

Summary Report: Ceasefires Backfire, Conflict Intensifies Amid COVID-19 Spike

At the beginning of the month, the Brotherhood Alliance of the Kokang (MNTJP/MNDAA), the Ta’ang (PSLF/TNLA), and the Arakan (ULA/AA) announced the extension of their unilateral ceasefire until 9 November 2020. As stated previously, if the Burma Army attacks, they intend to retaliate. However, they also said they are open to negotiation talks and engaging in preventive and protection measures related to COVID-19. The Burma Army also extended their unilateral nationwide truce until the end of October 2020. As previous agreements, this one also failed to include Rakhine state where fighting continues at an alarming rate.

The intensifying conflict between the Burma Army and Arakan Army has displaced thousands, killed and injured hundreds. The devastation has included a government-imposed Internet shutdown and unlikely access to polling stations in the upcoming 2020 national election. The spike in COVID-19 cases has also done little to reduce tensions and fears among innocent local people living in surrounding areas where relief groups are struggling to ensure access to life saving materials reaches the most vulnerable.

In justice news, during his address to the Human Rights Council, the head of the Independent Mechanism for Myanmar, Nicholas Koumjian, observed protection, security risks in Burma in need of attention, noting the progress the mission has made. These efforts are crucial in holding perpetrators of human rights violations accountable. The UN office in Burma reinforced calls for a global ceasefire as COVID-19 spreads quickly in conflict-torn Rakhine, where vulnerable groups remain at an increased risk of the virus and violence. Calls were also made for the full restoration of Internet access as the shutdown enters its 16 month. At the U.N. Security Council, several members also called for an immediate halt to fighting between the Burma Army and the Arakan Army. Eight of the 15 council nations said that conflict was taking a ‘heavy toll’ on local communities in Rakhine and Chin states. ND-Burma documentation from member organizations supports this.

More than 300 CSOs submitted a letter on the situation of human rights in Burma to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Burma, Mr. Thomas Andrews for his address to the Human Rights Council. The letter condemned the status of human rights in the country and noted significant challenges on the declining status of freedom of expression and voter suppression in conflict zones. UN Human Rights Chief, Michelle Bachelet also said the Burma Army’s brutal tactics in the 21-month long civil war in Rakhine ‘were producing possible war crimes’ and that ‘Naypyidaw had made no progress in resolving an earlier crisis sparked by the army’s explosion of the Rohingya.’

The rest of the month continued to show little progress for human rights reforms as students were jailed for their protest of the civil war, prompting many rights groups to continue lobbying for repeals to repressive laws that stifle freedom of expression.

Rakhine State

Over 1000 Civilians Arrested in Rakhine | 3 September 2020

According to local residents, the Burma Army detained over 1000 civilians from Rakhine in an area where there were no clashes between them and Arakan Army. A villager that escaped shared testimony about the horrors experienced, including beatings and arrests.

Arakan Army Accuses Burma Army of Using Pandemic to Justify Military Pressure | 3 September 2020

The leader of the Arakan Army said he feels officials are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to justify the deployment of more troops in Rakhine as civilians are being detained, tortured and killed in conflict.  According to Radio Free Asia, since hostilities between the Arakan Army and the Burma Army began in 2018, there have been 283 civilians killed and 627 injured. Over 200,000 have fled their homes amid the fighting and now live in official or makeshift displacement camps.

Villagers Forced Out of their Homes, Two Civilians Killed | 4 September 2020

The Burma Army forced villagers out of their homes in Kyauktaw township and killed two civilians. As their homes burnt, they were warned that if they tried to put out the fires they would be shot, making stay-at-home orders impossible with ongoing clashes.

Relief Needed After Homes Burnt by Burma Army | 8 September 2020

After 69 houses in Taungpauk village and 110 houses in Paya Paung village were destroyed by being burnt to the ground by the Burma Army, there were over 1500 villagers who are now in urgent need of emergency assistance for food and clothing. One villager said: “I wondered if it would be better if we just died.”

Four Killed in Artillery Strike in Myebon village | 9 September 2020

A devastating strike by the Burma Army killed four, including two children and injured ten others in Rakhine. Regional instability continues to cripple civilians as a grieving father said, ” I want to know if they are going to continue to kill like this.” Following the incident, calls for justice have been supported by local groups as well as UNICEF and Save the Children who urged an end to armed conflict in Rakhine, a ceasefire and investigation into the incident. According to groups that are advocating on behalf of children, forty-two children under the age of 18 have died and 135 have been injured since December 2018 by artillery shelling, gunshots, and landmine explosions.

The Burma Army Admits to Raping Rakhine Woman | 9 September 2020

The Burma Army admitted to raping a Rakhine woman, despite previous denials following her accusation at the end of June 2020. The survivor has been steadfast in her calls for justice and is being supported by a legal clinic working to pursue charges. The Burma Army has said they will take in house action against the soldiers.

One Killed, Two Injured in Rakhine State Shelling | 19 September 2020

One civilian was killed, two others were injured as artillery shells exploded just 20 miles away from the Rakhine capital city, Sittwe.

Two Brothers Shot by the Burma Army | 23 September 2020

Two brothers were shot in Mrauk-U, Rakhine state. Both survived, although one was taken into military custody. This pattern of systematic power abuse has resulted in many civilians detained and arrested without cause.

Detained Rakhine Civilians Speak of Abuse in Detention | 24 September 2020

Ten Rakhine civilians who were released after being detained overnight by the Burma Army spoke of the violent physical abuse they endured. A lawmaker, sadly called this a ‘common occurrence.’ Victims were fearful to speak out in case of repercussions.

Chin State

Woman Killed by Landmine in Paletwa | 20 September 2020

A Rakhine woman who accidentally stepped on a landmine while searching for bamboo shoots was killed immediately after it exploded. Landmines have been an all too common occurrence for civilians foraging for food in the jungle.

 

Civilians in Paletwa Face Food Shortages from Fighting | 24 September 2020

As fighting continues between the Burma Army and the Arakan Army, locals in bordering Paletwa, Chin state are facing food shortages. A spokesperson for the Relief and Rehabilitation Committee for Chin IDPs says 60,000 residents in remote villages are cut off from food markets.

Shan State

Civilians Flee Forced Recruitment by Shan Armed Groups | 4 September 2020

Over 200 civilians have fled forced recruitment by armed groups in northern Shan state and are seeking shelter at a monastery after reports of villagers being abducted and forced to join. Young men are the primary target, as are young children.

Separate Incidents Leaves Two Shan Civilians Dead | 9 September 2020

Two civilians in Shan state were shot in separate incidents by unknown perpetrators. Shootings are common, but very rarely are gunmen held accountable leading to an unsafe sense of security for local villagers.

Human Rights Violations Increasing in Northern Shan | 24 September 2020

Abuses against civilians in northern Shan are rising, according to the Humanitarian Strategic Team – northern Shan state. According to their data, between February and August 2020, 48 people were killed (25 shot, 23 by landmines) and an additional 26 were injured, with over 1000 displaced.

On International Peace Day, the same group released a statement calling for health and humanitarian support for civilians affected by conflict and the pandemic.

 

Update from ND-Burma member, the Ta’ang Students and Youths Union

One Villager Burnt and One Civilian Shot by the Burma Army 

Mai Pann Zar, aged 20 years (parents- U Aik Kit and Daw Aye Htwan) and Mai Aik Aung 20 years (parents- U Kwan Kham and Daw Mar Kham) who live in Phar Hlaing village, Pan Ta Pyay village, Mong Yaw sub township, Lashio Township were victims of attacks by the Burma Army. On 30 August at 9:00 AM, They went to fix the fence and feed the buffalo. They had seen the Burma Army on their way and the soldiers shot at them four times. Mai Pann Zar had been shot by the Burma Army and Mai Aik Aung had escaped from them. The villagers found the burnt corpse of Pann Zar 30 minutes from that area.

On 30 August at 2:00PM, Mai Ah Tun, 37 years old, was living in Phar Hlaing village, Pan Ta Pyay village, Mong Yaw sub township, Lashio Township. He was shot and killed by the Burma Army when they went through Man Nar Saing village where villagers heard a gunshot 10 times. Mai Aik Tun was missing for a week from that day. His family and village went looking for him. On 7 September, near Man Pan Militia gate, there was a smell and they found Mai Aik Tun’s dead body. The dead body was wearing a MNDAA uniform, but his parents remember his son. It appeared that after killing him, the Burma Army changed his clothes.

On 12 September, the Burma Army released a statement that on 30 August there was fighting between the MNDAA and the Burma Army, 1000 meters away from Northern of Htan Khaung village. The two dead bodies were MNDAA soldiers and weren’t villagers. The Burma Army took the guns from the MNDAA. On 16 September, the MNDAA also released the statement saying these two dead bodies weren’t their soldiers. There was no fighting between MNDAA and Burma Army that day.

 

Karen State

Calls for Peace by Karen Civil Society Organizations on International Peace Day Commemorated on 21 September 2020

The Karen Women’s Organization called for genuine and inclusive peace in Burma. Women have been unfairly sidelined from participating in the peace process and are seriously underrepresented in various social, political sectors.

The Karen Human Rights Group observed peace day with a shared hope that we will one day live in a world conflict that is resolved without resorting to violence. KHRG called on the Burma Army and all armed actors to observe this important event by participating in an international ceasefire.

Kachin State

The Burma Army blocked IDPs displaced by conflict in the town of Bhamo, from returning home to their villages. Confusion has emerged as a result of different promises from the government, the General Administrative Department and the military.

 

Freedom of Expression

 

Advocacy Group, ‘Justice for Myanmar,’ Website Shutdown | 1 September 2020

The website of advocacy group, Justice for Myanmar, was blocked by the government. The group represents different activists who are active in their exposing of the Burma Army’s business ventures, which are corrupt and lacking transparency. The group has since launched a mirror site.

Rakhine Journalist Still in Hiding 17- Months On | 10 September 2020

Burma Campaign UK called on the government of Burma to drop all charges against journalist, Aung Marm Oo, and to repeal all repressive laws. Aung Marm Oo has been in hiding after receiving threats and being charged under the Unlawful Associations Act 17(2) for his media group reporting on human rights abuses by the military.

Rakhine Based Political Parties Call for Lift to Internet Ban | 11 September 2020

Amid election campaigning in the lead up to the national vote, political parties based in Rakhine are rightly calling for full restoration of Internet services during the campaign period. The shutdown has had lasting consequences on civilians, Members of Parliament and aid workers.

Students Arrested for Protesting Ban | 11 September 2020

Three students have been arrested for protesting the Internet ban in Rakhine state after they called on the government to end the shutdown in eight townships. The policy has led to unprecedented levels of insecurity and critical info gaps, especially amid COVID19. The Burma Human Rights Network called for their immediate release – saying they were practicing their right to peacefully protest. ND-Burma member, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners also responded by releasing a statement on the arrest and prosecution of students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Human Rights Watch Calls for Protection of Protesters | 23 September 2020

Human Rights Watch called on the Burmese authorities to stop responding to criticism of the government and military with arrests. Charges against the over 20 students in Burma protesting should be dropped immediately.

 

Member Update

On World Democracy Day, ND-Burma released a six-month human rights report showing how widespread impunity continues to take place, spotlighting injustices against innocent civilians in Burma. Read in English: http://ow.ly/TOkf50BqOY6  and Burmese: http://ow.ly/OiUe50BqOXR

Representatives from ND-Burma member organizations, the Ta’ang Students and Youth Union, and the Pa-O Youth Organization joined a panel to discuss the situation of IDPs and refugees in Shan State.

ND-Burma member, the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand released a new report titled, “Guarding Profits Not Lives,” which exposes the role of the Burma Army in the Gwihka mining landslide tragedy and the ownership of jade companies and calls for an immediate moratorium.

ND-Burma members and affiliate members, the Ta’ang Women’s Organization, thePa-O Youth Organization and Progressive Voice joined a statement calling for justice for three villagers who went missing after being detained by the Burma Army. They are demanding answers after their bodies were found in northern Shan state.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners released a new report, “Mapping Injustice in Myanmar,” which looks at human rights violations across Burma’s regions over a ten-year period of January 2010 to June 2020.

The Ta’ang Women’s Organization released a press release saying the Burma Army has intensified their offensive in Ta’ang regions since 2012 and details such in their latest report, “Peace Never Realized.” The main human rights violations documented include torture and beating by rifles, bamboo sticks and military equipment.

364 civil society organizations in Burma sent an open letter to the UN Human Rights Council on the deteriorating human rights situation during COVID-19 calling for an end to offensives and for the HRC to take measures to bring justice and accountability including an ICC referral. Several ND-Burma members and affiliate members endorsed the letter including All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress, Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters, Chin Human Rights Organization, Future Light Center, Kachin Women’s Association Thailand, Pa-O Youth Organization

Progressive Voice and the Ta’ang Women’s Organization.

Progressive Voice hosted two online UPR report launches on the CSO Working Group on MNHRC reform and on the human rights situation on the ground and the type of peace needed in the country.

To celebrate International Peace Day, ND-Burma member organization, the Tavoyan Women’s Union, joined a panel of women’s voices for peace and justice in the Asia region.

During a diplomatic briefing on the UPR, ND-Burma joined several NGOs on 29 September 2020. The meeting was attended by 14 embassies including delegates from EU, Australia and U.S embassies.

ND-Burma addressed key challenges in Burma based on our UPR submission on the Peace Process and Armed Conflict in Burma. Together with the ND-Burma member organisation, the All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress, we highlighted the failure of NCA as a key reason for the prolonged civil war and provided related recommendations.

Read our submission in full here.

 

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ND-Burma is a network that consists of 13-member organisations who represent a range of ethnic nationalities, women and former political prisoners. ND-Burma member organisations have been documenting human rights abuses and fighting for justice for victims since 2004. The network consists of nine Full Members and four Affiliate Members as follows:

Full Members:

  1. All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress 
  2.  Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
  3. Association Human Rights Defenders and Promoters 
  4. Future Light Center 
  5. Human Rights Foundation of Monland
  6. Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand
  7. Ta’ang Women’s Organization
  8. Ta’ang Students and Youth Union
  9.  Tavoyan Women’s Union 

 Affiliate Members:

  1. Chin Human Rights Organization
    2.     East Bago – Former Political Prisoners Network
    3.     Pa-O Youth Organization
    4.     Progressive Voice