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6 – 12 September: Impunity Prevails after Two Youths Killed in Pegu

By Burma Partnership  •  September 13, 2010

On 4 September, two youths were shot execution style in Pegu, north-east of Rangoon. The incident took place shortly after midnight when the youths were involved in a minor traffic accident with a motorbike carrying two military officers. One eye-witness reported, “After arguing with local youngsters, about 10 soldiers, including officers, came back to the town with arms, looking for the young men they had had problems with. The soldiers found them near a local teashop and shot them after more arguing.” The youths were identified as Aung Thu Hein, 22, and Soe Paing Zaw, 18.

Authorities appear to be attempting to minimize the repercussions from the incident, which led to hundreds of angry residents gathering at the hospital. The families of the victims have reportedly been offered 1 million kyat (US $1,000) compensation each in exchange for their silence. The youths’ families were not allowed to see the bodies, and security was extremely tight at the funeral. Some activists and students were even blocked from attending the service.

However, the families have expressed that they have to hope for justice. “How can we rely on the legal system? We can’t even file this case at the police station,” said Aung Thu Hein’s aunt.

The killings are a sad and shocking example of the regime’s general disregard for human rights and the culture of impunity that exists in Burma. Sporadic inhumane acts carried out by individual officers, such as this one, and widespread crimes against humanity committed by the regime as a systematic policy, continue unchecked. With a flawed and corrupt legal system, there are no official mechanisms for the people of Burma to seek justice. Furthermore, this system of impunity will be legalized when the 2008 Constitution comes into effect after the elections.

In response to the brutal killings, state-run media claimed the incident was merely a “drunken brawl” that was being exploited to spark riots in the country. The paper continued by stating, “the government is now gearing up hand in hand with the people… [to take] action against those elements deceiving the people into taking to the streets with the intention of destroying State stability and peace”.

The regime is well aware that this is a situation that may not blow over without consequences. As Burma observers may recall, the countrywide protests of 8.8.88 initially grew from student protests over the death of a fellow student at the hands of the authorities. That one incident, coupled with the deteriorating economy and repressive socio-political climate, led to one of the most significant uprisings in the history of Burma.

The regime’s concern highlights that they themselves recognize that they do not have the support of the people of Burma. Fraudulent elections will entrench this culture of impunity and will not help to protect human rights – even the right to life, liberty and security of person. The international community must take a strong stance against impunity in Burma by joining the growing call for a UN commission of inquiry.

News Highlights

China welcomes Senior General Than Shwe; warns the world not to meddle in the elections

Inside Burma

NLD seeks unity with ethnic minorities and dialogue with ethnic ceasefire armies; Daw Aung San Suu Kyi calls on the regime to avoid launching an attack and negotiate with ceasefire groups in order to spare the lives of local residents

1990 winner’s committee announces an election boycott, urging public to exercise their right to abstain from voting; state-run media denounces those calling for boycott as irresponsible and antidemocratic

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi advises the NLD to sue the regime for unlawfully forcing the party to dissolve

Lack of voter education for citizens has led to apathy and limited understanding of political parties

Election candidate numbers appear stacked against non junta-allied parties

Rakhine Nationalities Development Party candidate notes USDP is his greatest competition in the upcoming polls

Rangoon Mayor calls on departmental heads to push civil servants to cast advanced votes for the USDP

Public demands press freedom in survey in Rangoon; Reporters Without Borders criticizes the regime’s heavy censorships, stating “without press freedom, the election will just be a sham”

Election Commission yet to announce polling stations in areas controlled by the Kachin Independence Organization

SPDC military purchases 50 combat helicopters from Russia; sources allege the helicopters are for ‘counter-insurgency’

Back Pack Health Worker Team releases footage documenting the military’s recent brutal attacks in Karen state

Karen National Liberation Army ambushes SPDC military soldiers in Karen State, killing two and injuring six

SPDC military reinforces troops near China border areas controlled by various ethnic armed groups; United Wa State Army deploys three armies to Shan State in anticipation of a military offensive; regime continues to pull government officials from Shan State

SPDC military imposes travel restrictions on members of the Kachin independence Organization

Burma tightens restrictions on foreign tourists, including monitoring to ensure apolitical visits and increased punishments for over-staying visas

Regime releases 100 prisoners from Insein prison; no political prisoners among those released

Regime accelerates ‘privatisation’ efforts in liaison with business cronies; Tay Zaw to take over all telecommunications services

Regional

Construction begins on new China-Burma oil and gas pipeline

South Korea increases investment becoming fifth largest investor in Burma

Extortion and corruption rife in Thai crackdown on Burmese migrant workers

International

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights official urges protection for those vulnerable to exclusion, intimidation and attacks during the elections

BBC Burmese service broadcasts in danger of being cut due to UK government cuts

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This post is in: Weekly Highlights

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