Myanmar

Report on the Human Rights Situation in Burma (July - December 2014)

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Introduction

Throughout the period from July to December 2014, ND-Burma documented 107 human rights violations across Burma. The violations documented during these six months occurred in areas of armed conflict but also in areas covered by ceasefires. Each violation is a specific incident, but it may involve any number of victims, from one victim of killing, to forced labor involving many victims, to the forced displacement of an entire village. ND-Burma’s findings demonstrate that, despite progress in reaching ceasefire agreements with non-state armed groups, the government has made little progress protecting the human rights of its citizens.

Furthermore, continued arrests of human rights defenders demonstrate that the government is not serious about working with civil society to protect human rights.

During this period, people in Burma, especially activists, communities, and victim’s families have dared to raise the issue and demand the truth of what actually happened to their loved ones. For instance Ko Aung Kyaw Naing, also known as Ko Par Gyi, was a freelance journalist who went missing while he was in Mon State. In October, the Burma Army announced that Ko Par Gyi was fatally shot when he attempted to grab a weapon and flee while being investigated in military custody.1 Later Ma Thandar, an activist and wife of Ko Par Gyi, tried to demand that the Burma Army state the truth regarding what happened to Ko Par Gyi. Finally the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) agreed to investigate the case, however the commission’s report was unsatisfactory to the victim’s family and activists who had seen Ko Par Gyi’s body and believed that he was killed following brutal torture.

This period also marked the three year anniversary of the disappearance of Samlut Roija, a 28 year old ethnic Kachin woman who was abducted by the Burma Army from Light Infantry Battalion 321 along with her husband and father-in-law, near their farm in Hkaibang village, Momauk Township, Kachin state in 2011. Her husband and father-in-law escaped while she was brought to the army camp.

Later Samlut Roija’s family submitted a letter asking authorities about her fate. Both the military and civilian authorities refused to supply an answer. In March 2012, her husband submitted a letter to the Supreme Court, which was also rejected. Therefore on the third anniversary of her disappearance, over 100 organizations signed a petition and demanded the Burmese government fully investigate her forced disappearance and hold the perpetrators accountable.

In 2012, Ja Seng Ing, a ninth grade Kachin school girl who lived in Maw Wan quarter No.1, Sut Ngai Yang village of Hpakant was shot and killed by the Burma Army while she and her friends hid during fighting between the Burma Army and Kachin Independence Army (KIA).3 Mr. Brang Shawng, the father of Ja Seng Ing, submitted a petition to authorities asking them to investigate this incident. However Mr. Brang Shawng was instead charged under Article 211 of the Myanmar Penal Code for making “false charges” against the Burma Army in a letter he sent to the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) in October 2012.4 On December 6, 2014, the Ja Seng Ing Truth Finding Committee (the Committee) released a 42 page report titled “Who Killed Ja Seng Ing?” which documents the testimonies of 16 individuals with knowledge of the events surrounding Ja Seng Ing’s death. The committee also called on the Burmese Government to initiate an investigation into her death.5 At the Letpadaung copper mining project in Sagaing Region, 56 year old Daw Khin Win was fatally shot by the police in December while she and villagers gathered to protest against a Chinese mining firm, Wanbao, which attempted to fence off an area which the company had not yet legally acquired.6 While human rights defenders and activists call for the truth about how victims suffered and for perpetrators to be held accountable, they were met with repressive laws such as well-known controversial Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act and Article 19, the sister clause.

In July, Chin State, eight Chin activists – were charged under Article 18 of “The Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Act” for protesting without permission after they organized a demonstration in protest of the beating and attempted rape of a 55 year old woman from Rezua sub-township in Matupi Township, Chin State by a soldier from the Burma Army. Even though these Chin activists applied in advance to the respective police station requesting to hold a demonstration, they still faced threats and intimidation from local officials according to Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) statement.

Following the death of 56 year old Daw Kin Win at the site of the Letpadaung copper mine, activists Daw Naw Ohn Hla, U Nay Myo Zin and Daw Sein Htwe, who led demonstrations calling for an investigation into and accountability for the killing, were arrested.

Political and rights activists are still behind bars according to the monthly chronology issued by Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) in December 2014. By the end of December, 81 political activists remain in prison, with 78 farmers in jail and 203 people awaiting trial. As another year passes by the government’s promise to release all political prisoners by the end of 2013 is once again left unfulfilled.

Since 2011, the government has attempted to negotiate ceasefire agreements with the 16 non-state-armed groups in Burma. Although preliminary ceasefires have been signed with 14 of these groups, fighting between government troops and the two remaining groups without ceasefires continues, as well as clashes between parties to ceasefires. Armed clashes between Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAO) and the Burma Army in 2014 are stated below:

Clashes recorded as following:

Kachin State 73 clashes, KIA and Myanmar army, Karen State 13 clashes, Karen National Union (KNU) 3, Democratic Karen Benevolent Army 10 (DKBA), Mon State 3 clashes (DKBA), Rakhine State 3 clashes, Rohingya Solidarity Organization (RSO), Shan State 143 clashes, Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) 113, Shan State Progress Party (SSPP) 17, Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) 13, Taninthari Region 1 clash (KNU), Bago region 1 clash (KNU)

Even though the government has held negotiations and other meetings with ethnic armed groups, they have not yet reached a genuine political solution. Offensives continue in ethnic areas such as Kachin state and in the Palaung areas of Northern Shan State. As a result of the fighting, almost 100,000 people have become internally displaced in Kachin and Shan States.