Seeking justice in Burma
Fighting escalates in Kachin, 6,800 newly displaced
Fighting between the Burmese military and Kachin Independence Army (KIA) intensified during April, with the UN estimating that some 6,800 people became newly displaced. This is on top of the 100,000 displaced since conflict between the KIA and military re-ignited in 2011 following a 17-year ceasefire.
The conflict has been accompanied by human rights violations against civilians, with local organisations documenting killings, torture, arbitrary arrest, injury by shelling, and forced labour. A Kachin woman who accused the military of murdering two of her male relatives in March went into hiding after the army brought legal charges against her. Humanitarian aid organisations are continuing to face trouble accessing the area. Locals have been protesting and the KIA urged the displaced to have ‘patience’ for peace. Kachin civil society organisations called for the Burma army to be referred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the Legal Aid Network NGO published an interesting report on ending impunity for war crim
es in ethnic nationality areas.
Photo: Protesters in Myitkyina, Kachin State. Credit: Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint/The Irrawaddy
The surge in fighting follows an attack by the KIA on a Battalion of the army at the beginning of the month. Bilateral peace talks between the two combatants broke down in February after the KIA issued a list of conditions for talks.
Karen aid worker killed by military;
Launch of report on Karen crisis blocked following military pressure
The Burma army shot dead a Karen community leader and aid worker while he was giving a lift to a Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) soldier on his motorbike. The army has claimed the victim was a plainclo
thes fighter. A video about his work can be found here.
Photo: Saw O Moo, who was shot dead by the Burmese army. Credit: Doh Doh/Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN)
The launch of a report by a Karen NGO examining recent ceasefire violations in Karen State was blocked following Burma army pressure on Thai authorities. The report “The Nightmare Returns: Karen Hopes for Peace and Stability Dashed by Burma Army Actions” and accompanying 30-minute documentary can be found here.
UN Security Council visits Burma as calls for accountability grow louder;
Monsoon rains to hit Bangladesh refugee camps and spate of births imminent nine months after soldiers entered Muslim villages
The UN Security Council visited Myanmar and Bangladesh to meet government representatives and refugees. The UN appointed a new special envoy to Burma, though the Special Rapporteur on human rights continues to be banned from entering the country. Here an interesting piece by Burma specialist David Scott Mathieson on the country’s tempestuous relationship with previous Special Rapporteurs.
Calls are growing to hold Burma’s military accountable for human rights violations. The Prosecutor of the ICC requested the court to rule on whether it can exercise jurisdiction over Burma’s mass expulsion of Muslims to Bangladesh. Burma was also put on a UN blacklist of groups suspected of having carried out sexual violence in conflict.
Nine months after soldiers entered Muslim villages as part of the army’s ‘clearance operations’, a spate of refugees in Bangladesh are about to give birth to babies they say are born of rape. Monsoon rains have started to hit camps, which a Burmese Minister said were in “very poor conditions.” The Burmese government claims it has repatriated one family of Muslim refugees, which Bangladesh and the UN refugee agency have disputed. A meeting between Muslim refugees and Burmese officials was cut short after it became “aggressive”.
36 political prisoners freed in mass presidential amnesty
Over 8,000 prisoners were freed as part of a presidential amnesty to mark Burmese new year, including 36 political prisoners. This included two Kachin pastors who spent over a year in jail after helping journalists document Burma army airstrikes in northern Shan State, as well as Lahpai Gam, who was arbitrarily arrested in 2012 and suffers serious health problems following torture. Burmese state TV reported the soldiers sentenced by a a military court for murdering Muslim men in Inn Dinn, Rakhine State, were set free. This was denied by the government, but is impossible to verify. A former leader of an insurgency group who was responsible for the massacre of 39 students was also released. Political prisoners released under amnesty do not receive redress and do not have their records expunged.
Policeman admits Reuters journalists on trial were set up and is promptly arrested himself
A policeman testifying at the hearing of the two Reuters journalists on trial for violating the Official Secrets Act after being given documents concerning a mass grave in Rakhine State by police admitted the journalists had been set up. His family was subsequently thrown out of police housing and he was sentenced to an undisclosed prison term under the Police Disciplinary Act.
73-year old Shan woman raped, knifed and robbed by Burma army soldiers;
Burma army Commander-in-Chief says there has never been a rape case in the military
A local NGO reported that a 73-year-old woman was raped, cut with a knife and robbed by Burma army soldiers in Shan State. Burma army Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing said on his Facebook page that he told UN Security Council representatives during their visit that the military had no history of sexual violence, which was challenged by the many organisations which have documented the use of rape as a weapon of war by Burmese security forces for decades.
Latest ceasefire signatory facing more obstruction from military;
Shan armed group in talks to sign peace accord
The New Mon State Party (NMSP), which signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in February, has been blocked from setting up ceasefire monitoring bodies in requested areas. The NMSP finally held its first national-level political dialogue at the beginning of May after having faced obstruction from the military.
Meanwhile the Shan State Progressive Party (SSPP) has started bilateral talks with the government and it is anticipated the group will sign the NCA.
Here a good breakdown of the peace process, including explanation of the many acronyms.
Kayah locals demand military returns confiscated lands;
Government says it will investigate land confiscated under previous administrations
Some 200 people held a protest in Loikaw, the capital of Kayah State, demanding the military release over 200 acres of confiscated lands.
The government said it would investigate some 30,000 acres of land seized across the country by previous administrations and rented to agri-businesses. Land not being used can be re-claimed under the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Land Management Act.
Two officials jailed for ten years for corruption;
Anti-Corruption Commission gets to work
Two officials were sentenced to five years’ jail time each by the Mandalay court after taking 39 million kyats (approx. 29,000 USD) in bribes.
Meanwhile the Anti-Corruption Commission arrested a judge and a lawyer in Rakhine State and President U Win Myint instructed Commission members to carry out their work without being influenced by powerful figures.
Ethnic Affairs Ministry receives less than 1% of state budget;
Kachin efforts to preserve ethnic language
The Ethnic Affairs Ministry, responsible for helping ethnic nationalities preserve their literature, culture, and customs, is allocated less than 1% of the state budget.
Here a video report on Kachin people’s efforts to preserve their language.
ND-Burma is a 16-member organisation whose members represent a range of ethnic nationalities, women and the LGBTI community. We have been documenting human rights abuses and fighting for justice for victims since 2004.
- Assistance Association for Political Prisoners – Burma
- Human Rights Foundation of Monland
- Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand
- Ta’ang Women’s Organization
- Ta’ang Students and Youth Organization
- Tavoyan Women’s Union
- All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress
- Chin Human Rights Organization
- EarthRights International
- Equality Myanmar
- Lahu Women’s Organization
- Pao Youth Organization
- Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
- East Bago – Former Political Prisoners Network
- Progressive Voice
- Kachin Development Networking Group