As the peace process stalls, more and more reports are emerging of clashes between the Burma Army and ethnic armed groups in northern Burma; the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Shan State Army – South (SSA-South) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). Yet as highlighted by a report released by Ta’ang Women’s Organization (TWO), it is the civilians on the ground who are experiencing the most suffering, as human rights violations committed by the Burma Army continue as militarization and conflict in ethnic areas increase.
On 23 February, a combined force of Burma Army and its proxy, Border Guard Force (BGF), attacked a SSA-South position in Mongton, Shan State, while the TNLA reported that their troops were attacked while they were carrying out drug eradication activities in Namhsan, Kutkai, and Manton townships, northern Shan State. Since 31 January, the Burma Army has also taken three KIA outposts and seized a Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) county office. This follows on from a pattern of greater militarization and increased troop movements in these areas. The Burma Army is reportedly building a road in order to have greater access to KIA Brigade One areas and rotating troops on the frontlines[...]
March 3, 2014
Tags: Border Guard Force, Burma Army, Burma Partnership, Shan State Army-South, Ta'ang National Liberation Army
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The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, Tomás Ojea Quintana, last week concluded his final mission to Burma, having served the maximum of six years permitted under his mandate. His end-of-mission statement, issued at Rangoon International Airport on 19 February, provides a thematic summary of some of the most pressing human rights issues that Burma currently faces, as well as an overview of certain key stops on his itinerary, most notably Kachin and Arakan States.
Special Rapporteur Quintana’s statement highlights two salient points. First, the human rights situation in Burma is evidently still very serious indeed, with little or no progress made in some areas. As Special Rapporteur Quintana says: “For the time being, the military retains a prevailing role in the life and institutions of [Burma]. State institutions in general remain unaccountable and the judiciary is not yet functioning as an independent branch of Government. Moreover, the rule of law cannot yet be said to exist in [Burma]. Tackling the situation in [Arakan] State represents a particular challenge which, if left unaddressed, could jeopardize the entire reform process. A critical challenge will be to secure ceasefire and political agreements with ethnic minority groups, so that [Burma] can finally transform into a peaceful multi-ethnic and multi-religious society” [...]
February 24, 2014
Tags: Arakan State, Burma Partnership, Human Rights, Kachin State, Special Rapporteur, Tomas Ojea Quintana, United Nations Human Rights Council
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The upcoming national census, scheduled for 30 March and the first conducted in Burma for more than three decades, is proving to be one of the most divisive issues on Burma’s agenda. Representatives of Burma’s numerous ethnic nationalities, as well as of smaller ethnic sub-groups, are raising vociferous objections to the census. Many feel that it violates their right to identity. Such objections generally work in two opposing directions, which only serves to highlight the complexity and dangers of such an exercise.
On the one hand, smaller ethnic sub-groups often feel excluded, threatened or incorrectly classified if they cannot identify as their own ethnic sub-group. For example, the Palaung people have expressed a desire to identify themselves solely as Palaung rather than Shan, on the basis that they are descended from Mon-Khmer and not Shan-Tai ancestry. Indeed, the Palaung State Liberation Front recently issued a statement rejecting the census’s categorization of the Palaung people as one of 33 Shan sub-groups. On the other hand, larger ethnic groups feel that their own wider national identity and cause is undermined if ethnic sub-groups do not identify as, say, Shan. The same dilemmas and frictions are being reported in Chin, Kachin and Karen States. Indeed, such tensions within each state and region are a microcosm of what is happening in Burma overall.
February 18, 2014
Some groups have recognized the census’s value in terms of development, health and education, but have explicitly denounced the fact that ethnic categorization is included in the census. In a letter to Parliamentary Speaker Shwe Mann, 23 Kachin civil society organizations called for either a postponement of the census or the complete omission of Question 8, which asks for ethnic or tribal identification. Ethnic Chin activists recently wrote to the National Census Commission, requesting at least a 30-day delay [...]
Tags: Burma Partnership, Census, International Crisis Group, Kachin, Palaung State Liberation Front, Rohingya, Shan, United Nations, Violence
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President Thein Sein’s government has been applauded for its lifting of censorship and granting of greater media freedom than the country has seen in decades. However, recent arrests and defamation cases against media workers and public figures are telling of the Burma government’s true stance on freedom of speech.
February 11, 2014
The end of 2013 saw the first imprisonment of a reporter, Ma Khine from Eleven Media, who was indicted for trespassing, defamation and use of abusive language in an alleged video piracy case. Following Ma Khine’s indictment, six Unity journal staff were arrested inJanuary under Official Secrets Act for a report on a possible chemical weapons factory on military grounds in Pauk Township, Magway Region. In the same month, Associated Press journalists were called into the Ministry of Information and criticized for their reporting on the violence that occurred in Du Char Yar Tan village located in Arakan State [...]
Tags: Arrest, Censorship, Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Information, Media Freedom, Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, publishing
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During his first visit to Burma, the President of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim announced that the World Bank will pledge US$2 billion to drastically improve health, electricity and agriculture sectors. This investment is badly needed given the disproportionately large amount of money that the government still allocates to the military and the subsequent decay of health and electricity access. Yet the World Bank must be aware that it will take more than throwing money at problems to solve them.
February 4, 2014
Of the US$2 billion, approximately US$1 billion will be spent on generation, transmission and distribution of electricity over the next 3-4 years, especially aimed at the rural poor. This is especially important given that 70% of people in Burma do not have electricity access. A further $200 million will be spent on the healthcare sector, working toward the goal of universal health coverage. Further investment will be utilized to increase productivity in the agriculture sector, in which 70% of people in Burma depend on for their livelihoods [...]
Tags: Burma Partnership, Development Aid, World Bank
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It is still only January, and already 2014 has seen a disturbing resurgence of the anti-Muslim violence and rights abuses that afflicted Burma throughout 2012 and 2013 and tarnished the ongoing political reforms. According to The Arakan Project, on 13 January, at least 40 Rohingya Muslim women and children in Du Char Yar Tan Village in southern Maungdaw Township, Arakan State, were killed by local police officials and Arakanese Buddhists, with others reportedly raped. As a result of the violence, hundreds are now displaced. Furthermore, Fortify Rights has confirmed mass arrests of Rohingya men and boys in Maungdaw Township, in breach of their fair trial rights and right to liberty.
However, the Burma Government has denied that such killings have taken place, despite admitting that clashes did occur between Rohingya Muslims and Arakanese Buddhists, and journalists have been barred from the area. The US has called for a proper investigation and for those responsible to be held accountable, as has UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma Tomás Ojea Quintana and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos has also called upon the Burma Government to immediately launch an impartial investigation into these events and to respect the rights of those arrested and detained. Burma Campaign UK has called for an international investigation into the violence, and Physicians for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch have demanded immediate investigations by the Burma Government [...]
January 27, 2014
Tags: Arakan State, Arakan/Rakhine, Burma Partnership, Rohingya, Violence
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Mixed messages on the peace process came out this week as the government proposed for the first time to commit a substantial amount of money into the peace process. Yet the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s inflammatory comments on the indestructibility of the Burma Army and blaming the conflict on the country’s ethnic armed groups expose the attitudes of the country’s most powerful institution. Meanwhile, a second round of formal talks between ethnic armed groups and the government’s Union Peace Working Committee on the nationwide ceasefire accord have been postponed until February as ethnic representatives further discuss the accord.
January 21, 2014
A local newspaper, True News, published comments made by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing at a briefing to officers in Naypyidaw in November 2013. The language of peace and reconciliation was conspicuously absent in his address, “We made peace agreements, but that doesn’t mean we are afraid to fight. We are afraid of no one. There is no insurgent group we cannot fight or dare not to fight.” The Burma Army chief also states that he intends to follow the path laid down by Senior General Than Shwe, the former head of the military junta that suffocated and terrorized Burma from 1988 to 2011. Burma’s underdevelopment, he adds, is “because of internal insurgents who caused conflict in the country.” [...]
Tags: Burma Army, Peace Process, War Crimes, Women
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To casual Burma observers, President Thein Sein may appear to have fulfilled his promise to British Prime Minister David Cameron on 15 July 2013 that all political prisoners in Burma would be released by the end of 2013. After all, political prisoners were freed throughout 2013, culminating in two “final” releases on 11 December (41 released) and 31 December (16 released). The motive is not hard to discern: such high profile releases play into the current “good news” narrative on Burma. The international community, hungrily eyeing up Burma’s huge potential as an untapped frontier market of boundless investment opportunities, cheap labor and vast natural resources, tends to lap up such reports without examining the narrative more carefully.
Inevitably the narrative is not so simple. The most prominent criticism of the Burma government’s policy towards political prisoners in 2013 was that it was releasing some, while all the time arresting others, particularly land and community activists. This “revolving door” policy ensured that Burma’s jails were in no danger of being put out of business [...]
January 13, 2014
Tags: Burma Partnership, Political Prisoners, Release of Political Prisoners
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2013 has been a year in which many of the nascent reforms of 2012 have begun to take root, but also one in which new challenges have emerged. In 2014, there will be many opportunities for the government of Burma to show its commitment to democratic transition.
December 20, 2013
This year saw the historic meeting of ethnic armed groups in Laiza, Kachin State, with a second due in Karen State the third week of January. Despite such important conferences, the uncertainty of the ceasefire process has had an impact on ethnic unity. After several postponements, the government is planning to hold its nationwide ceasefire in early 2014. Such a public show will not be enough to solve decades of armed conflict and ethnic inequality; the government, its Union Peace Working Committee and all ethnic armed groups must engage in a comprehensive, inclusive political dialogue with all parties on an equal footing. An independent third party mediator would help ensure that the difficult underlying issues, such as the power of the Burma Army, political power sharing between the government and ethnic nationalities, resource management, and justice for human rights abuses committed by all sides, are finally addressed and sustainable peace is achieve [...]
Tags: Burma Partnership
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As Japan deepens its economic ties with Burma at the Japan-ASEAN summit in Tokyo, civil society from Tavoy, Tenasserim Region, express concerns over investing in a huge special economic zone that has already caused widespread human rights violations.
December 16, 2013
Adding to the US$867 million in loans pledged in May, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised a further US$578 million in loans for infrastructure development for the Thilawa Special Economic Zone (SEZ), as well as upgrading Burma’s railway network. Another agreement was made in which greater protections for Japanese businesses investing in Burma are established, thus creating a safer environment to explore business opportunities [...]
Tags: Burma Partnership, Tavoy Deep Sea Port
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