July Justice Newsletter (July 2020)
July Justice Newsletter
This month continued to show a backsliding of human rights violations and blatant disregard for the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), as the rights of civilians were dismissed with clashes increasing in northern Shan with the expansion of Burma Army operations. In Rakhine and Chin states, conflict remains volatile and shows no signs of slowing as the numbers of those forcibly displaced rise, alongside their unmet needs. Humanitarian blockages have made efforts to support the most vulnerable amid the COVID-19 pandemic and rising numbers of casualties and those injured even more difficult, making for an increasingly dire and overwhelming situation.
The failings of the government to uphold basic rights and freedoms was made evident as several rights groups released submissions to the Universal Periodic Review including ND-Burma as well as ALTSEAN Burma, the All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress and Progressive Voice alongside several ND-Burma members on hate speech and shrinking democratic and civil society space, and on refugees and internally displaced persons. The submissions all echoed past commitments Burma had made during the previous cycle. Burma has struggled tremendously to commit to much needed legislative reforms that would protect rights defenders and religious minorities. They also observed Burma’s dangerous human rights record where civilians are regularly killed, tortured and displaced at the hands of the military. ALTSEAN-Burma stated that in the first half of 2020 alone, there were 608 armed clashes or attacks on civilians. According to ALTSEAN, these incidents took place in 10 out of the nation’s 14 States and Regions, and involved killings, arbitrary detention, torture, sexual violence, forced labor, and mass displacement. Attempts for peace and reconciliation in Burma will continue to not be taken seriously unless the government and the Burma Army show their commitment to ceasefires and negotiations, of which they have initiated.
Since the year began, civilian deaths at the hands of the Burma Army have increased to at least 29 cases, with the majority taking place in Rakhine state. Civilians are regularly arrested and killed in detention on often unproven claims of them being affiliated with the Arakan Army. Clashes have been intensifying since early July between the Burma Army and the Arakan Army with fighting breaking out regularly in Rathedaung, Myaybon, Ponnagyun, Rathedaung, Mrauk-U, and Minbya townships.
Villagers Forced to Flee as Burma Army Announces Clearance Operations | 2 July 2020
In an alarming retreat, over 10 000 villagers were forced to flee their homes in Rathedaung township as the Burma Army prepared to launch an offensive against the Arakan Army. Diplomatic missions from the US, UK, Canada and Australian condemned the operations.
Man Dies of Landmine Injuries | 11 July 2020
The death of an elderly man from a landmine has continued to reinforce fears for safety for civilians in Western Burma. He succumbed to severe blood loss and shock after delays in receiving medical treatment. Injuries and casualties from landmines are too frequent in Rakhine state, having claimed the lives of many amid fighting between the Burma Army and Arakan Army.
Rakhine Woman Accuses Burma Army Soldiers of Gang Rape | 13 July 2020
A woman from Rathedaung Township filed a complaint with the Sittwe Township Police Station against three military soldiers accusing them of gang rape. She spoke out about the attack saying, “I want the truth to be revealed, so I filed the complaint at the police station openly, by telling the truth.” Over 100 civil-society-organizations issued a joint statement calling for accountability and justice in the case.
Two Women Injured by Gunfire in Rathedaung | 14 July 2020
The women struck were 37, and 48 were injured by gunfire from the Burma Army when they indiscriminately fired at four homes. The women were struck when they were hiding.
Shootout Kills One, Injures Three | 14 July 2020
A 70-year old man was killed and three women were injured in northern Rakhine following indiscriminate shooting between the Burma Army and Arakan Army. Civilians said the shooting lasted nearly two hours. Local organizations on the ground claim that over 250 people have died and 600 have been injured in Burma Army-Arakan Army conflicts since 2018.
Two killed, Three Injured in Attack | 16 July 2020
Those injured included children after the Burma Army attacked a village while fighting with the Arakan Army. A man and woman were killed, and a woman and two children under 5 were hurt.
Family Members Want Justice for Detained Men | 16 July 2020
Family members of two civilians from Kyaukphyu Township are appealing to the Burma Army to release the detainees. The men are reportedly in custody of the military and being brutally tortured.
Detainee Death Questioned by Victims Family | 17 July 2020
The family of a Rakhine villager who allegedly died by hanging while in custody of the Burma Army also suffered wounds to his head, neck and a gunshot wound to his left hand – leading the family to believe the apparent suicide is a cover up by the military.
Woman Fleeing Violence Shot in the Back | 22 July 2020
A mother of four was shot in the back while fleeing violence in northern Rakhine. She survived and is being treated at Mrauk U hospital. Witnesses say they heard gunshots and bullets were flying everywhere.
Three Women Arrested, Detained by Burma Army | 26 July 2020
Three civilian women from Kyaukphyu township were arrested and have been detained by the Burma Army on allegations that they have ties to the Arakan Army. Their condition has not been made clear, though they have been reportedly charged under Section 50(j) and Section 52(a) of the Counter-Terrorism Law.
Civilians Struck by Shrapnel in Their Homes | 28 July 2020
One woman and three men from Ann township were injured when an artillery shell exploded in their village. Those struck were in their homes. Civilians are not safe living in the conflict zone with clashes frequently taking place between the Arakan Army and the Burma Army.
Civilians Stranded in Paletwa | 6 July 2020
ND-Burma affiliate member, the Chin Human Rights Organization says over 500 people are stranded in Paletwa after being asked to meet with the General Administrative Department. Despite being allowed to travel freely for the meeting, they have not been permitted to return – and were threatened otherwise.
No Shelter for IDPs in Ann Township | 17 July 2020
Those seeking refuge from fighting between the Arakan Army and Burma Army in Ann township have been left with no space in the town’s two IDP camps with new arrivals being housed in a sports stadium. Consequences of the armed conflict continue to fall on civilians.
An increase in Burma Army troops in northern Shan state has locals worried as civilians are increasingly arbitrarily detained, forced to porter and at a heightened risk of experiencing human rights violations. Military impunity is a driving force of injustice for victims of violence, particularly in northern Shan where human rights violations are rampant. This month alone, the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) has clashed with the Burma Army over 20-times.
Civilian Beaten by Burma Army Soldier | 3 July 2020
A 60-year old civilian in northern Shan state was beaten by the Burma Army when clashes erupted between the Restoration Council of Shan State.
Seven Villagers Injured from Landmine Blast in Namt Khone Village | 8 July 2020
Case from ND-Burma member, the Ta’ang Students and Youths Union
On 8 July 2020, there were seven villagers who were injured when a young boy found a UXO device found near his farm, during break time after lunch and at 1:30 PM, Namt Khone village, Pan Kaing village tract, Namphakar, Kutkai Township, Muse District, and Northern Shan State.
The village head said, “They went to the farm around 8AM and had lunch soon after. The mine looked like an improvised explosive device, which the young boy took back to his hut when it exploded. After the blast, they went to Namphakar hospital and five of them with more serious injuries were treated at the Lashio Public Hospital.
The explosion injured Namt Khone villagers including Lway Ei Lar (15) years, Lway Nu Nu Hlaing (16) years, Lway Aye Khaing (14) years, Lway Amm Cherry (18) years, Lway Kwel (16) years, Mai Yai Thaung (24) years and Mai Maung Sein (20) years.
The five who arrived at Lashio Public Hospital were Lway Ei Lar, Lway Nu Nu Hlaing, Lway Amm Cherry and Mai Yai Thaung. Two of them had been treated at Namphakar hospital.
In the last two years, there has been an increase in landmines including UXO, following clashes near Namphakar village.
Farmers Injured in Bomb Explosion | 11 July 2020
A bomb explosion injured seven farmers in Kutkai over the weekend. Fears have escalated in Shan State since the recent deployment of additional Burma Army troops in civilian areas as clashes continue with the Ta’ang National Liberation Party.
Villager Injured by Landmine | 12 July 2020
Case from ND-Burma member, the Ta’ang Students and Youths Union
On 12 July 2020, U Aik Lam who lives in Mai Yu Lay village, Kutkai Township, Muse district, Northern Shan State went to cut bamboo when he stepped on a landmine and was seriously injured.
The village head said, “Previously, there was fighting between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Burma Army. No one knew he went there. In the evening, the Namphakar social group took him to the Namphakar hospital, but they referred him to Muse Public Hospital because the injury was more serious.
U Aik Lam is 30 years old and has 3 children. The injury has made his livelihood more difficult as he needs to provide for the education and health of his family. He was injured in his leg, arm and stomach.
Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) Condemns Burma Army Violence | 13 July 2020
In response to the mass protest on 10 July by Kyaukme residents demanding justice for their fellow villagers who were killed, tortured and wounded by the Burma Army on June 29, the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) condemned the targeting of civilians and called for the Burma Army to drop charges against protesters. SHRF expressed concern that the June deployment of over 800 troops is fueling displacement and fear amid the COVID-19 lockdown. SHRF also observed that it is no surprise that most of the fighting has taken place near the site of the Upper Yeywa hydropower dam on the Namtu River.
Coal Mining Company Pressures Villagers in Southern Shan State | 14 July 2020
Southern Shan villagers are being pressured to accept a coal mining project, which would cause environmental damage and health problems. Leverage through bribery is common and is a testament to local solidarity in their refusals to succumb to the offers.
Civilians in Northern Shan Flee During Harvest | 17 July 2020
The sound of gunfire has become all too familiar in northern Shan state where civilians have been forced to flee regular fighting and taking refugees in monasteries and nearby townships.
RCSS/SSA Soldier Rapes Young Woman | 17 July 2020
Case from ND-Burma member, the Ta’ang Students and Youths Union
On 17 June 2020, Sai Aik Pan, a Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS-SSA) soldier raped a young woman around 12PM, Nyaung Pan La village, Chaung Sar village tract, Namtu township, Kyuakme District and northern Shan State. She was raped while coming back from the farm for the day.
The young woman’s father said, “this is not only my daughter who has faced this kind of abuse, but other women as well. The RCSS/SSA should control their soldiers when they set up a base in villages.”
Some soldiers take responsibility and accountability for their issues, but others have not been held accountable for their crimes. The young woman’s mother said, “we do not dare go back to the village – even if we do go back, it is not safe.”
On 13 July 2020, Ta’ang civil society organizations and some Shan/Tai civil society organizations went to the Yay-O village in Namtu township to meet with the RCSS/SSA spokesperson who takes responsibility in these areas. The RCSS/SSA was requested to attend a meeting, but they did not show up. They also threatened civil-society organizations and others who came to them to meet the village head leader.
The RCSS/SSA has arrested the soldier who committed the crime, but the community has been limited in speaking out for fear of reprisals. In Tai Freedom Media, the RCSS/SSA denied that the soldier committed the rape.
The RCSS/SSA is one of the EAOs who has signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in 2015, and had also signed the Geneva Deed of Commitment on child protection on 26 November 2019.
Landmine Strikes Villages, including Buddhist Abbot | 17 July 2020
Instability continues to ravage northern Shan state after a landmine killed a Buddhist abbot, villager and injured a novice monk cleaning the monastery grounds. The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Burma Army are based in the area where locals have called for both groups to remove the mines. The monk who passed away was U Zin Nandi Ya (36) years and had served 16 years in the monastery. Mai Naing Htin (18) years injured his chest and leg, and a novice suffered from a minor injury. They are being treated at the monastery.
ND-Burma, the Ta’ang Students and Youths Union, said that the TNLA and the Restoration Council of Shan State have clashed in this area in the past, and now the Burma Army has increased their presence by staying for 20-days in this village last month.
Par Nay Villagers Killed by Landmine While Traveling | 19 July 2020
Case from ND-Burma member, the Ta’ang Students and Youths Union
On 19 July 2020, Mai Aik Waung (29) years old, Mai A Lay (18) years old who lived in Par Nay village, Man Pu village tract, Kutkai Township, Muse District and Northern Shan State were traveling from their village to sell their buffalo when a landmine exploded halfway there.
The village head said, “They went to the Mai Yu Lay to sell the buffalo from the village. When they arrived near Lwal Kan village, Mai Aik Waung went in front and stepped onto the land mine and Mai Aik Lay (my younger brother) was at the back. My young brother did not get injured, but Mai Aik Waung lost his left leg and later died.”
According to a local villager, this mine was planted by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) because there were three landmines planted. One of them was stepped on by the Burma Army, another stepped on by Mai Aik Waung and one had been removed by the TNLA. The TNLA failed to announce and remind the villagers that landmines had been set up in the local area, and they failed to take responsibility and accountability for this issue.
Mai Aik Waung who was killed had two daughters, one of whom was 4 months old. He came from a poor family and now there are many problems to solve with livelihood difficulties.
Civilians Fear Increase in Operations in Kyaukme | 22 July 2020
Civilians remain fearful as the Burma Army sends more troops into Kyaukme, northern Shan where locals have experienced heightened unrest with frequent clashes between the Restoration Council of Shan State. Farmers in particular are suffering as fighting puts their livelihood at risk.
Burma Army Unjustly sued 47 Farmers for Trespassing on Seized Land | 22 July 2020
The Shan Human Rights Foundation condemns charges by the Burma Army who are suing 47 farmers for trespassing on their own farmlands – which were seized by the Burma Army.
Hsihseng Farmers Reject Government Compensation | 22 July 2020
Locals in southern Shan State are opposing an offer of compensation for farmland seized by the military. Instead, they are speaking out against the creation of highland farms and calling for their conservation efforts to be preserved and upheld.
Escalating clashes between SSPP/SSA and Burma Army Displaces Villagers | 26 July 2020
Villagers were again forced to flee fighting due to clashes between the Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) and the Burma Army and were unable to bring anything with them.
Disabled Family Tortured by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) | 26 July 2020
Two TNLA soldiers entered a local family home in Kutkai, northern Shan and went on to abuse a paralyzed man, his wife and children. The soldiers claimed they were searching for drugs and when they did not find any, they beat the man and his wife. He said, “after they searched and did not find anything, they hit me, my wife and children who were sleeping. I feel very sad and want to resolve this so it does not happen again in the future.’
The Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) Blames Burma Army for Clashes | 28 July 2020
The RCSS has clashed with the Burma Army over 20 times in the last month as terms of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement are violated at the expense of civilian safety and security. Fighting has resulted in forced displacement of over 1000 people from villages in northern Shan.
Attempted Rape by Burma Army Soldier | 30 July 2020
A woman farming was dragged by a Burma Army soldier to a push where he attempted to rape her. Her calls for help were heard and the soldier was imprisoned, though no reparations were offered to the victim. The lapse in justice is evident in the lack of knowing where the perpetrator was actually punished, and is evident of the Burma Army’s tolerant culture of impunity.
Landmine blast in Kho Tin village Kills One, Injures Others | 30 July 2020
Case from ND-Burma member, the Ta’ang Students and Youths Union
On 30 July 2020 around 4PM in the afternoon, children were playing when a landmine detonated in Kho Tin village, Man Jat village tract, Kutkai Township, Muse District and Northern Shan State.
The village head told TSYU that the children were playing and were struck by the landmine. There were six children struck by the landmine and four of them were seriously wounded.
The blast happened in front of a home where the Burma Army Infantry Battalion (99) had been staying. There was no house owner. After the children were injured, they were sent to Kut Kai hospital and those with more serious wounds were sent to Lashio hospital.
The children are Lway Ngwe Zin Aung (9) years, Mai Tun Sein (7) years, Mai Aung Naing (7) years, Lway Kyam Kham (5) years, Lway Ei Lao (2) years and Lway Sein Kham (3) years. Lway Kyam Kham died on 30 July at Kut Kai hospital, two of them are receiving treatment in Kut Kai hospital, two are getting medical treatment in Lashio hospital and one of them is in Mandalay hospital.
Farmer Killed by Accidental Landmine Detonation | 31 July 2020
Chit Maung, an elderly farmer was killed when he accidentally detonated a landmine in Kyaukme. While these fatalities are common, farmers are at a high risk of being struck on their way to the fields which are far from their villages.
Kachin State Landslide Kills Over 100 Miners | 2 July 2020
On 2 July 2020, a landslide at a jade mining site of Kyaukmyet Shwe claimed the lives of at least 172 civilian miners and wounded over 50. The jade found in northern Kachin state is highly prized as the most valued in the world, with an estimated net worth of over US $30 billion. It is also a driving force of conflict over ownership between ethnic armed organizations in the region, locals and the Burma Army.
Kachin civil society organizations questioned the conditions that led to the tragic death of miners at the Hpakant jade mine calling for an end to the ‘licensed death ground’ and to stop abuses of natural resources.
Two Shan-Ni Youth Teenagers Killed in Custody of Kachin Independence Army | 24 July 2020
After the death of two Shan Ni teenagers killed in custody by the Kachin Independence Army, the armed group has committed to holding the soldiers accountable and compensating the victims’ families. An investigation remains ongoing. The Shanni community has called on the KIO to avoid interethnic conflict between the Shanni and Kachin communities by not violating human rights.
Military violence by the Burma Army has killed two Karen villagers and injured five in Mutraw district since 2020, according to local reports. The Burma Army has been active in KNU controlled areas and responsible for indiscriminately shooting at civilians.
Karen Woman Killed by Burma Army Soldiers | 16 July 2020
Naw Mu Naw, a Karen woman from Mutraw district, was shot three times at point blank range by two Burma Army soldiers. Karen rights groups condemned the attack and called for Burma Army troops to withdraw immediately from civilian areas. Statements came from the Karen Women’s Organization, the Karen Peace Support Network, the Karen Human Rights Group and the Karen National Union. Karen civilians also protested in front of Burma Army posts demanding they leave their villages and stop targeting civilians. The Burma Army has arrested the two soldiers and says it will take ‘harsh action’ against them.
Freedom of Expression
Burma Government Justifies Continued Internet Shutdown | 8 July 2020
In a statement from Burma’s Foreign Affairs ministry, the government rationalised the Internet shutdown in Rakhine and Chin states as a way to control violence by the Arakan Army, while neglecting to mention human rights violations committed by the Burma Army.
Reports Released on Freedom of Expression Decline
18 July 2020: “A Chance to Fix in Time,” a report by Athan looks at the first four years of freedom of expression under the National League for Democracy. The report notes that violations of free speech were filed against 1,051 people.
22 July 2020: A new report on hate speech in South East Asia by the Asia Centre notes long-standing discrimination, hate campaigns targeting the Muslim community in Burma and calls for South East-Asian countries to commit to laws securing social, racial or religious harmony.
Youth Leaders Arrested for Protesting Internet Ban | 26 July 2020
Youth leaders from the Rakhine Students’ Union were unjustly sentenced to one month in prison under section 19 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law for protesting the Internet ban – which has been cut off for over a year in Paletwa, and northern Rakhine state.
Network Restrictions Extended Until October 2020 | 31 July 2020
Network restrictions in Rakhine and Chin states have been extended until 31 October 2020 by the Myanmar Ministry of Transport and Communications. While 2G services are available, local groups are saying this type of connection is too slow, as Telenor Group has also expressed concern for civilian safety.
- The Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) released an update on how the forced relocation of Chin civilians in Rakhine State is fueling displacement. They noted how IDPs are in dire need of food and humanitarian support amid hostilities between the Arakan Army and Burma Army. In another update, CHRO said that civilian livestock are being looted by the Burma Army.
This month CHRO also reported that over 500 people are stranded in Paletwa after being asked to meet with the General Administration Department. Despite being allowed to travel freely after the meeting, they were not allowed back to their villages.
- The All Arakan Students’ & Youths’ Congress released their June documentation of human rights violations in Rakhine State including recommendations to policy makers on IDPs and socio-economic affairs
- The Human Rights Foundation of Monland has released a new report, “Left Behind and Destitute,” countering claims by the National League for Democracy that the government’s COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan would leave no one behind. Read the report in English and Burmese.
- New report from the Kachin Women’s Association Thailand and Asia Justice and Rights identifies strategies for civil-society organizations and calls on donor agencies to better support assistance to victims of the most serious human rights violations.
- ND-Burma member organizations condemned the sexual assault of a young Ta’ang rape survivor by the Restoration Council of Shan State as a violation of rights and urged all armed organizations to respect the lives and property of civilians.
- On July 25, representatives from the All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress and the Chin Human Rights Organization joined a panel discussion hosted by the US Campaign for Burma on IDPs and refugees.
- The Kachin Women’s Association Thailand spoke to South-East Asia Globe about the devastating loss of life at the Hpakant jade mine and the upcoming election.
- ND-Burma members, the Ta’ang Students and Youth Union and the Ta’ang Women’s Organization released a statement calling for an end to land confiscation and implementation of large-scale development projects during COVID-19. Civilians are regularly displaced as a result of a lack of consultation.
- ND-Burma Advocacy Officer, Maggi Quadrini, addressed the failing ceasefire in northern Shan state against the backdrop of rampant human rights violations, in an editorial published in The Diplomat.
Member Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Submissions
ND-Burma called for an immediate halt to military operations throughout the country, so that civilian lives can be protected and inclusive political negotiations can begin, in our UPR submission on the peace process and the armed conflict in Burma.
NDB member, the All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress released their UPR submission on human rights violations committed by the gov. and military amid ongoing armed conflict in Rakhine State. The report observes violations including illegal detention, torture, shelling and killings.
Progressive Voice released joint submissions on Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons and
Hate Speech and Shrinking Democratic and Civil Society Space.
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:
- All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress
- Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
- Association Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
- Future Light Center
- Human Rights Foundation of Monland
- Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand
- Ta’ang Women’s Organization
- Ta’ang Students and Youth Union
- Tavoyan Women’s Union
- Chin Human Rights Organization
- East Bago – Former Political Prisoners Network
- Pa-O Youth Organization
- Progressive Voice