This month the National League for Democracy (NLD) formed a committee to hold talks with ethnic political parties in an effort to ‘coordinate and try to achieve common ground.’ However, ethnic parties say they have reason to approach the invitation with caution. The Shan Nationalities League for Democracy Vice chair Sai Nyunt Lwin said the letter required no response, telling Frontier Myanmar, “The letter just says the NLD hopes to work with ethnic parties. It offered no invitation for anything.” The newly formed committee is planning to start talks with ethnic parties quickly. However, while the invitation suggests promise for an improved working relationship, expectations of ethnic parties are wary given the NLD’s past working relationship. Trust must be a foundation in the starting ground.
Those who fled conflict in Rakhine started to head home as the Burma Army and Arakan Army (AA) engaged in indirect talks following a three week lull in fighting since the 2020 general election. The internal conflict between the two groups has killed over 300 civilians and displaced nearly 230 000. Burma’s president, Win Myint called for cooperation among all stakeholders in Rakhine on the 46th Rakhine State Day. The two sides are currently observing an unofficial ceasefire. However, there has been backlash suggesting the military should involve the government in pursuing peace with other armed groups. “It would have been preferable if the military had included relevant government organisations or the peace commission,” said NLD spokesperson, Monywa Aung Shin.
The Burma Army and AA met in person for talks in the Wa capital of Pangsang. Focal points of discussion according to the AA’s spokesperson were making the by-election possible, the peace process and ensuring a ceasefire between both sides. Ethnic armed organisations who have not signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement met with the government and Burma Army to discuss plans to resume peace negotiations, which have been delayed due to COVID-19.
Meanwhile, Rakhine civil society organizations are calling for the ‘swift implementation of the request made by the President U Win Myint for holding the elections in Arakan State.’ Over 1 million citizens lost their rights to vote in the 2020 general election. There have been claims that the mass voter disenfranchisement was intentional as the NLD claims that legal obstacles stand in the way of holding elections. Rakhine women who were elected into office are being encouraged to focus on IDPs and women’s issues in upcoming legislative sessions. The course of intense civil war has been felt by thousands of innocent civilians. Nearly 20 000 are still living in IDP camps and displacement sites, according to the Rakhine Ethnics Congress and over 60% of IDPS are women who are in need of health services and accommodation.
Calls for Release of Civilians Ignored by Burma Army | 11 December 2020
After filing a missing person’s report of civilians kidnapped by the Burma Army, family members were turned away in their second attempt calling for their release and accountability. The military has denied holding the group of 18 who went missing between 13 and 16 March 2020. The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) said that it will not investigate the case of the missing villagers. The request was declined because according to MNHRC, the military’s denials of the alleged detainment are true. A lawmaker from Kyauktaw township says the decision by the MNHRC has left civilians at a ‘dead-end’.
Two Years of Conflict Taking Toll on Children in Rakhine | 16 December 2020
Civil society organisations have condemned violence against children in conflict torn Rakhine where fighting has had serious impacts on young people – including psychological trauma, physical injury and death from crossfire and landmines. Between January and September, 56 children were severely injured, and 13 children died from explosions of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in Myanmar, according to UNICEF.
Civilian Casualties Taking Place Lawlessly, says CSO | 24 December 2020
In a new report, Generation Wave says twenty-one people were killed ‘lawlessly’ from 16 June to 15 September. The report also noted 124 people who have been unlawfully detained over the 90-day period, including 23 members from various student unions who protested against state-sponsored human rights violations and conflict. Eight are human rights activists, two politicians, and one journalist.
Landmine Victims Demand Government Assistance | 24 December 2020
Those who have had their lives altered as a result of landmine injuries are calling on the Burmese government to provide assistance in helping to rebuild their futures. According to the Rakhine Ethnics Congress, explosions from landmines and other devices have killed at least 33 people and injured 73 in two years.
Myanmar Army, Arakan Army Working to Prevent Clashes in Rakhine | 30 December 2020
Talks with the Arakan Army and the Burma Army are continuing with the two sides agreeing to an ‘unofficial ceasefire’ that expires early January. The Burma Army has said they are not sending in reinforcements and hope IDPs can return home safely. The future of civilian security is dependent on their negotiations.
Chin Youth Detained by the Arakan Army Release | 16 December 2020
Following numerous calls by the family of a Chin youth detained by the Arakan Army for over 4 months, Salai Aung Soe was released after 138 days in their custody. The Khumi Affairs Coordination Committee says since 2015, the Arakan Army has detained 105 civilians. There are still 22 being held. Affiliate member, the Chin Human Rights Organization, continues to call for the release of all Chin people detained.
Chin IDPs In Need of Support
Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Chin State who have been displaced by clashes between the Arakan Army and the Burma Army are facing severe food shortages. Relief groups estimate there are 4,300 IDPs from over 40 villages and 600 are staying in two camps in the town of Ann.
Woman Raped in COVID-19 Quarantine | 2 December 2020
A young woman was raped in a COVID-19 quarantine centre in Southern Shan State in the women’s dormitory where she was assaulted at knifepoint. The incident called on the authorities to seriously consider the safety of women in quarantine.
Villagers Forcibly Displaced by Fighting Between Armed Groups | 10 December 2020
Villagers in northern Shan experienced heavy fighting, which forced them to flee as clashes between the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and members of the Northern Alliance escalated. Sounds of gunfire saw many forcibly displaced as a result of the growing hostilities.
Over 7000 Displaced in Northern Shan Since beginning of 2020 | 14 December 2020
According to UNOCHA, around 300 civilians were forced to flee due to recent armed clashes in Namtu Township. Some have returned, while others are taking refuge in monasteries and host communities. There are 7,300 people who have been temporarily displaced in northern Shan since the start of 2020.
Military Tensions Escalate in Namtu and Kyaukme in northern Shan State between the TNLA and RCSS (Ta’ang Students and Youths Union)
More fighting between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) occurred in Hsipaw Township on December 30. The fighting between the RCSS and the TNLA broke out ten times in December 2020. During one such outbreak on December 29, one civilian was killed and another one was injured in an artillery strike. Over 2,000 residents were forced from their homes to take shelter in urban Kyaukme and Namtu Townships in northern Shan State.
Missing Teacher Not Allowed to See Family Members (Ta’ang Students and Youths Union)
Daw Than Than Myo, a schoolteacher in Manna Village, Mogok Township, Mandalay Region, was arrested by the military on December 28, 2020 and has not been allowed to see her family members. Mai Wunna, interim secretary of Ta’ang Literature and Culture in Mogok Township, said the military has not said anything about the arrest of the teacher. The family still has had no contact with a teacher who was detained by the military.
Renewed Clashes in Karen State Lead to Increased Military Presence | 31 December 2020
The Burma Army has increased their presence in Karen areas, resulting in a series of armed clashes that has forced over 3000 villagers to flee their homes. The ‘backsliding’ on the peace process by the government is hurting civilians, said the Karen Youth Network. As a result of decades of fighting particularly in Karen State, over 100 000 have sought refuge in camps along the Thai-Burma border.
Freedom of Expression
Burma Army Admits to Detaining Military Medic for Criticising Dictators | 8 December 2020
A second year student at the Defense Services Medical Academy is being charged under the Defence Services Act for making critical comments about the military on Facebook. His family has had no contact with him since late August 2020.
Voter Arrested for Claiming Pressure from Military in Vote Choice | 9 December 2020
The 25 year old daughter of an army officer, Thinzar Than Min said she faced pressure and threats if her family did not vote for the military backed Union Solidarity and Development Party in Burma’s 2020 general elections, and was subsequently charged to nine months of hard labor for violating article 505(a) of the penal code for causing members of the military “to mutiny or otherwise disregard or fail” in their duties. The ruling was met with outcry from groups like Human Rights Watch who cited laws used to ‘prosecute and silence critics of the Myanmar authorities’ including Section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Law. ND-Burma member, the Assistance Association or Political Prisoners (AAPP) said they added Thinzar Than Min to their list of political prisoners because ‘she was exercising her right to free speech to expose the military’s wrongdoing.’
Rights Groups Call for Reforms to Defamation Laws | December 11 2020
Over 50 civil society organizations in Burma called for the reform of six defamation laws used by the government and the military to suppress freedom of expression. The statement was also endorsed by news media, lawyers and judges.
Activists Urge Reform to Defamation Laws | 14 December 2020
Freedom of speech and protected spaces are shrinking at an alarming rate. Research by civil society organization, Athan, found 539 criminal suits had been filed against more than 1,000 individuals for public criticism in the first 4 years of the NLD’s term in office.
Youths Shared for Human Rights Day Activities | 22 December 2020
Three youths who participated in a campaign on Sittwe to mark International Human Rights Day were charged under Section 19(a) of the Peaceful Assembly Law. Over 30 people joined the event and widely condemned the systematic use of violence against civilians. Under the law they have been charged with, they must pay a fine not exceeding 30,000 Myanmar Kyats and/or a fine of up to three months in prison. Despite reforms to the law by the NLD, there has been criticism that these changes still criminalize peaceful expression and protest.
On International Human Rights Day, ND-Burma called on the Burmese government to protect all people in the country, and for everyone’s rights to be respected and upheld, so that meaningful steps can be made towards achieving peace.
Ting Oo, of the All Arakan Students’ and Youths Congress addressed the Kaladan transport project, stating the voices of local people in the affected area have not been taken into account, with a focus instead on completion of the project.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners reported an increase in the number of political prisoners in Burma by six individuals this past month, beginning next parliamentary term.
The Kachin Women’s Association Thailand moderated a Human Rights Day Panel on accountability in the face of rising authoritarianism, militarism, human rights violations and internal displacement.
Future Light Center released a report called, ‘The life struggle of labourers during the COVID-19 pandemic.’
The Chin Human Rights Foundation released their annual report on ‘The situation of Human Rights in Chin State and Western Burma/Myanmar.’ CHRO also spoke on a panel of religion and beliefs in Burma as part of a pre-session on the UPR at the UN Human Rights Council.
CHRO also reported that the Burma Army extorted money from villagers in Thantlang Township.
On International Human Rights Day, ND-Burma member, the Ta’ang Students and Youths Union (TSYU), distributed posters on the history and principles of Article 30 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to youth groups in 13 townships and Ta’ang civil society organizations in Lashio city. TSYU also posted a video interview of youth and relevant organizations regarding human rights abuses being addressed in Shan State on Facebook. Please see more here:
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
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