Earlier this week, two boats containing 600 refugees from Burma – mainly Muslim Rohingya – were turned away from the shores of Malaysia, having fled oppression under the Burma Government. They had been at sea for over two months and faced severe dehydration, starvation, and sickness. According to the International Office for Migration, there may be up to 8,000 still stranded at sea, many of whom will perish unless the international community provides urgent and substantive support. The scale of the exodus from Burma is alarming; according to the UN, this year alone more than 25,000 refugees have left Burma and Bangladesh for the shores of Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.
Many have been identified as Rohingya, Burma’s most persecuted religious minority population. For decades, the Rohingya have been systematically denied citizenship by their oppressive, military-backed government and subjected to repressive and discriminatory legislation, widespread and systematic human rights abuses, and violence that Human Rights Watch has classified as ethnic cleansing. Since 2012, hundreds have died and more than 140,000 have been displaced from their homes and villages. At the very least, the Burma authorities have been criminally negligent as regards the Rohingya; in many cases they were reportedly complicit in the violence. The Burma Government has shown no willingness to even investigate the violence, let alone prosecute those responsible.May 18, 2015 | By Burma Partnership | Tags: 1982 Citizenship Law, ASEAN, Burma Partnership, Refugees, Rohingya, Trafficking, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UN Refugee Convention | Read more >>
As the ethnic armed groups’ summit in Panghsang, Shan State concluded on 6 May 2015, familiar obstacles still loom large in the peace process. Namely, the 2008 Constitution, continued attacks and human rights violations committed by the Burma Army, and a lack of trust. Various commentators and organizations, including Burma Partnership, sounded words of caution after the over excitement caused by the agreement in principle of the draft nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), and those words of caution are salient today as peace remains out of sight.
The summit in Panghsang, territory controlled by the United Wa State Army (UWSA), brought together 12 major ethnic armed groups for talks that lasted six days. Groups that were present included those bearing the brunt of Burma Army offensives the past few weeks, the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Arakan Army (AA), and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). In fact, as talks were being held, the Burma Army attacked Kachin Independence Army (KIA) positions with airstrikes. It is not just the armed groups themselves who are bearing the brunt of attacks, but horrific human rights violations committed by the Burma Army on fleeing ethnic Kokang villagers, such as extrajudicial killings, including beheadings, are creating deep-seated fear among those who have been displaced by the conflict, but who are being pressured to return by Burma authorities […]May 11, 2015 | By Burma Partnership | Tags: 2008 Constitution, Arakan Army, Burma Partnership, Ethnic Armed Organisations, Ethnic Nationalities Affairs Center, Kachin Independence Army, Kokang, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team, Refugees, Ta'ang National Liberation Army | Read more >>
(27 April 2015) Today, Burma Link and Burma Partnership launches a joint briefing paper, Voices of Refugees – Situation of Burma’s Refugees Along the Thailand-Burma Border, online. The briefing paper highlights how the voices of refugees continue to be neglected in Burma’s reform process […]April 27, 2015 | By Burma Partnership and Burma Link | Tags: ASEAN, ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum 2015, Burma Link, Burma Partnership, Displacement, Internally Displaced People, Refugees, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights | Read more >>
The joint briefing paper by Burma Link and Burma Partnership, Voices of Refugees – Situation of Burma’s Refugees Along the Thailand-Burma Border, which was published online on 27 April 2015, highlights how the voices of refugees continue to be neglected in Burma’s reform process.
The briefing paper was initially launched and presented by Soe Aung at the most recently convened Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum 2015 in Malaysia, which took place between 22-24 April 2015 […]April 27, 2015 | By Burma Partnership and Burma Link | Tags: Burma Link, Burma Partnership, Displacement, Internally Displaced People, Refugees, UN High Commissioner for Refugees | Read more >>
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Civil Society Conference/ASEAN Peoples’ Forum 2015 (ACSC/APF) ended on 24 April 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, bringing the voices of the people of ASEAN together in its yearly three day event. It reminds us of the historic ACSC/APF 2014 that was held for the first time in Burma and the hopes raised and duly dashed since that forum in the past year. As civil society throughout the region strives for better promotion, protection and respect for human rights, a review of the human rights situation and democratic reforms in Burma over the past year represent dreams turning into nightmares.
Events at the ACSC/APF 2015 involving Burma included a theatre play by Burma’s students and youth depicting the events of Letpadan, where over 100 students and supporters were detained after a violent attack by police and hired thugs on the column of students marching from Mandalay to Rangoon. The play called for the government to release the 79 student protesters and their supporters that remain in jail. The ASEAN Youth Forum labelled this strive for education reform by Burma’s students as an “endless and painful struggle.” Events brought to mind previous student demonstrations and consequent crackdowns such as in 1974, 1988 and 1996, all of which were committed by overtly military regimes. It begs the question; what has changed? […]April 27, 2015 | By Burma Partnership | Tags: ACSC/APF 2015, ASEAN, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, Burma Partnership, Internally Displaced People, Letpadan, Rohingya | Read more >>
Today, Tuesday 21 April 2015, is the first anniversary of the death of U Win Tin – journalist, democracy activist, founding member of the NLD, and one of Burma’s most high profile and respected political prisoners who spent over 19 years in prison. When he was eventually released in 2008, he refused to hand back his blue prison shirt, and vowed to wear a blue shirt every day until all political prisoners were released, saying: “If there are no political prisoners … I will take off my shirt, but up until now I haven’t seen good indications.” Sadly, despite the many promises made by President Thein Sein to release all political prisoners, U Win Tin continued wearing a blue shirt until the day he died, one year ago.
In fact, the number of political prisoners has increased markedly over the last year. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, as at the end of March, 173 political prisoners remained incarcerated in Burma, with a further 316 activists awaiting trial for conducting political activities. Furthermore, students, garment workers, farmers and journalists have all borne the brunt of the state’s repression. In March alone, 92 people were charged for their civil and political rights activities, with 31 arrested and seven sentenced, mostly as a result of the well-documented student protests in Letpadan and Rangoon in early March […]April 20, 2015 | By Burma Partnership | Tags: Burma Partnership, U Win Tin | Read more >>
Peace talks resumed after a six month hiatus between the Burma Governments’ Union Peace-making Work Committee (UPWC) and the alliance of ethnic armed groups, the Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team (NCCT). Yet in an extraordinary display of hypocrisy, the Burma Army began airstrikes again against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), just as the talks paused for a week-long break. This is to complement the airstrikes currently targeting the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in northern Shan State.
The Burma Government, through its proxies the UPWC and the Myanmar Peace Center, consistently attempts to dominate the discourse surrounding the peace talks, eschewing positive conclusions whenever talks happen. Time and time again the media is told that the signing of a nationwide ceasefire accord (NCA) is ‘just round the corner,’ or in this case, ‘within days.’ How can the signing of the NCA be within days if the Burma Army has opened two fronts on its war against ethnic armed groups? Furthermore, although the MNDAA is part of the NCCT, they have been excluded from the most recent peace talks, with the Government and the Burma Army steadfastly refusing to consider any method of engagement with them apart from through military means. There needs to be honesty from the government on the realities of the prospects for peace so that parties concerned, including the donors and civil society, are able to contribute and help steer the process instead of losing trust in it […]March 30, 2015 | By Burma Partnership | Tags: Burma Army, Burma Partnership, Conflict, EU, Kachin Independence Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team, Union Peace making Work Committee | Read more >>
The 28th session of the UN Human Rights Council today passed, by consensus, resolution 28/21 entitled ‘Situation of Human Rights Myanmar’ and extended by one year the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar […]March 27, 2015 | By Forum-Asia | Tags: 2008 Constitution, Burma Partnership, Equality Myanmar, Forum-Asia, Special Rapporteur, United Nations Human Rights Council, Yanghee Lee | Read more >>
The persecution of the students and their supporters shows no sign of abating as around a hundred are still locked up and others are in hiding as authorities hunt them down. Meanwhile their supporters are being intimidated across Burma by intelligence unit, Special Branch, as well as administration and immigration authorities. Perhaps fittingly, this was occurring while the Special Rapporteur on the situation on human rights in Burma, Yanghee Lee, was giving her report to the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) in Geneva, where she highlighted “continuing challenges indicating worrying signs of backtracking on key human rights issues.” We must thank Ms. Yanghee Lee for bringing the multitude of human rights abuses to the attention of the member states in a comprehensive report, especially in the light of the sexist abuse she has been subjected to by extremist monks in Burma.
Of over 100 students and supporters arrested and imprisoned after a brutal crackdown by police and hired thugs in Letpadan, Pegu Region on 10 March 2015, around eighty remain in Tharyawaddy prison. While 127 is the official number of arrests on March 10, there were at least 10 more arrested following the Letpadan crackdown in Rangoon, Dawei, and the Irrawaddy area. Families have been denied access to visit their sons and daughters, with guards refusing to let them in to speak to them or deliver basic items, nor do they receive regular updates on their health. Furthermore, some are still in hiding as the authorities are searching houses using the 2012 enacted, “Ward or Village Tract Inspection Law.” This law, highlighted by Fortify Rights this week in their report, “Midnight Intrusions: Ending Guest Registration and Household Inspections in Myanmar” stipulates that homeowners need to register any house guests with local authorities. This gives the police carte blanche to enter any persons home at any time, superficially to conduct a periodic household inspection. It is used to target political activists and is being used now in their hunt for the students in hiding.March 23, 2015 | Tags: Burma Partnership, National Education Law | Read more >>
8th Regular Session of the UN Human Rights Council Oral Statement Delivered by Khin Ohmar on behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) […]March 16, 2015 | By Forum-Asia and Khin Ohmar | Tags: Burma Partnership, Forum-Asia, Khin Ohmar, Letpadan, National Education Law, Peaceful Assembly and Procession Law, Penal Code, Special Rapporteur | Read more >>