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To Recognize and Repair: Unofficial Truth Projects and the Need for Justice in Burma

By Network for Human Rights Documentation - Burma  •  June 11, 2015

imageThe advance towards a free and democratic Burma has so far done little to account for the crimes of its past. Emerging from a military dictatorship and opening its doors to the outside world has certainly led to an increased focus from the international community on the future of the country. As a result of increased scrutiny by the outside world, the U Thein Sein government has repeatedly reiterated their genuine commitment to improving the human rights situation. Despite government statements to the contrary, the situation for human rights defenders, journalists, farmers, land rights activists and civilians particularly in ethnic areas – has not improved.

A more open Burma has not meant a freer or safer country for its people. Aggressive and systematic oppression of people still exists and as yet little definitive action has been taken by this government to change this. Their forces have continued to violently quell rebellious action in ethnic areas and ceasefire agreements have so far done little to resolve this. The treatment of ethnic citizens in conflict areas
by the government’s armed forces is that of a systematic and brutal regime that permits acts of inhumane cruelty and oppression. Peaceful protests are crushed with excessive force, arbitrary arrests and torture in detention are still common and land confiscation is rampant, placing the people concerned in difficult and dangerous circumstances.

Extrajudicial killings and torture of ordinary citizens by government forces is widespread in Burma, while the ongoing problem of land confiscation is still prevalent. This paper focuses on these three areas to demonstrate the need to begin concrete discussions on how the government should be taking responsibility for reparations programs and taking steps to acknowledge and apologize for the crimes
of the present and of the past.
The suffering of their citizens is demonstrably a direct result of the actions of this government’s forces. Currently it is only civil society, with the backing of some INGOs and governments that are providing essential care for the victims of the human rights abuses. There is little to no government support for local or national commemoration programs. Some have taken place in and around Rangoon, such as the 88 Silver Jubilee celebrations that went ahead with the government support. However this was not a fully funded or emphatically backed event, with the government permitting its implementation but not actively participating in the transitional justice effort. The holding of an event such as this is an important step,
but the government must go further in their support for activities of this kind. There needs to be an admission of guilt and an acknowledgment of the crimes of the past for them to truly participate in transitional justice efforts. Military influence still pervades many aspects of the country, with ongoing issues of investment by foreign companies in land mining areas and the continuing expansion of military sites clear examples. It is also important to highlight that the military retain a large amount of power over the country, with the allegedly civilian government still governed by the old military junta attitude.

The holding of these celebrations are very important, but there are other steps that must be taken to ensure the responsibility of the government to make reparations is given primacy. The recommendations made in this paper need to form part of a wider program of transitional justice, implemented by the Government of Burma with the involvement of civil society organizations who are currently trying to account for the harm these gross human rights violations have caused.

Download full report in English here.

Download summary in English here.

အစီရင္ခံစာျမန္မာဘာသာအႏွစ္ခ်ဳပ္ကုိ ဤေနရာတြင္ ေဒါင္းလုပ္ရယူႏိုင္ပါသညါ။

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This post is in: ASEAN, Children and Youth, Crimes Against Humanity, Displacement, Health, Human Rights, Military Regime, Women

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