Posts Tagged ‘Burma Partnership’
As talks over the signing of a nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA) are delayed once again, thus pushing substantive dialogue further into the future, Burma’s decades long civil war rages on in Kachin and Shan States.
Talks over the signing of the NCA have now gone on for nearly 18 months and the situation on the ground has still not changed. The Burma Army continues to attack ethnic armed groups in areas where ceasefires have been signed, such as those of the Shan State Army South and Shan State Army North, as well as continuing offensives against the Kachin Independence Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Front (TNLA) where there is no ceasefire. On Monday 18 August, a civilian in Namkan Township, Shan State was shot dead and another hospitalized after a clash between the TNLA and Burma Army. Human rights violations such as sexual violence, arbitrary arrest, torture and extrajudicial killing continue in these active conflict areas, while in areas where individual ceasefires are holding, the Burma Army is entrenching its power both militarily and economically through land confiscation and reinforcement of its positions.
The aim in this pursuit of the NCA is questionable as it distracts from the real issues at hand that prevent the ethnic people of Burma from enjoying genuine peace. Let us not forget that the Burma government has already signed ceasefire agreements with most ethnic armed groups. But has this stopped the attacks and human rights violations inflicted on local communities by armed forces? This question cannot be answered in the affirmative. Just ask the villagers who live in Murng Hsu, Shan State, whose homes came under artillery attack, and were forced to act as guides for the Burma Army in June of this year in a supposed ceasefire area. If all groups sign on to the NCA, the biggest question is how can they trust that the Burma Army will actually cease its attacks. There is scant evidence of this from current and previous ceasefires [...]
August 26, 2014
Tags: 2008 Constitution, 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, Burma Army, Burma Partnership, Ceasefire Agreement, Government of Myanmar, Human Rights Violations, Kachin Independence Army, National League for Democracy, Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, Peace Talks, Shan State Army-North, Shan State Army-South, Ta'ang National Liberation Front
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Over recent weeks, there has been a spate of unprovoked attacks by the Burma Police Force on peaceful, innocent civilians. On 14 August, nearly 50 police personnel in Mandalay Region shot at a group of around 200 farmers from Nyaung Wine Village, Singu Township. According to the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), a 30-year-old mother of two, Ma San Kyin Nu, is allegedly one of the victims, and has been admitted to Mandalay General Hospital for urgent medical treatment as a result of her injuries. The farmers were protesting against the fact that over 6,000 acres of their land was confiscated in 1991 by the 121 Logistic Battalion of the Burma Army – without any compensation being provided – by continuing to plough their fields.
After the police violence, the protesting farmers prevented police from making any arrests; however, later, another 100 police arrived and blockaded the entire village. Local residents then took matters into their own hands and briefly detained about 40 police officers, angered at the brutal approach of the police to the land conflict. Although the policemen were eventually released after negotiations, the dangers and risks of uncontrolled police violence and impunity are evident: blood has been shed and anarchy has prevailed. Even if police allegations that the protestors were armed with slingshots is true, under no circumstances is the use of live ammunition by police or other state security forces on civilian protestors proportionate or justified.
Furthermore, on 14 May, All Burma Federation of Students Union (ABFSU) member Kaung Htet Kyaw was beaten by police during a suppression of a farmers’ protest in Thegon Township in Pegu Region. Kaung Htet Kyaw sustained severe head injuries. ABFSU responded by releasing a statement denouncing police mistreatment [..]
August 19, 2014
Tags: All Burma Federation of Students Union, Asian Human Rights Commission, Attack, Burma Army, Burma Partnership, Burma Police Force, European Union, Human Rights Violations, Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma, Protest
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The main opposition party in Burma, the National League for Democracy (NLD), said last week that almost 5 million people signed the petition calling for constitutional reform that did the rounds from 27 May to 19 July. The petition pushed for the removal of the Burma Army’s veto on constitutional change that they have by virtue of Article 436 of the Burma Constitution. This campaign has been widely praised as a shrewd tactical move, because it would in theory unlock the door to amendments of any offending articles of the Burma Constitution that undermine democratic values and infringe upon the fundamental rights of the people. Most notably – though by no means exclusively, as the NLD and others are at pains to stress – amendment of Article 436 will in turn enable amendment of Article 59(f), which in practice bars Daw Aung San Suu Kyi running for President in the 2015 elections.
While such a public initiative is to be applauded, and the weight of support for the petition is to be welcomed, the political opposition in Burma must not allow itself to be distracted by such diversionary machinations on the part of the Burma Government and the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). The NLD is right that constitutional reform is essential to the establishment of genuine democracy in Burma. However, it is also time for the political opposition to test the limited democratic space that now exists in Burma, and time to start outlining a viable policy platform for government. The burden rests with the NLD and other democratic opposition parties to engineer a seismic cultural and political shift: away from politics traditionally centred on personalities and fear, and towards politics based on actual policies that will resolve people’s grievances and promote and protect their political, economic, social and cultural rights.
August 12, 2014
Tags: 2008 Constitution, 2015 Elections, Article 436, Burma Army, Burma Partnership, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Government of Myanmar, Human Rights Violations, National League for Democracy, President Thein Sein, Union Solidarity and Development Party
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The debate over a potential change to Burma’s electoral system, from a First Past the Post System (FPP) to a Proportional Representation System (PR) is gathering momentum, with a new committee formed by the Parliamentary lower house speaker, Shwe Mann, to discuss whether this is appropriate for the country. While the general debate over suitability of differing electoral systems is complex and broad, if seen through the eyes of the context in Burma, there is one clear winner if this change is implemented before the 2015 general election: the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) which is unsurprisingly supportive of this change.
The argument for Burma to change to PR is certainly compelling. Theoretically, it will give smaller political parties, such as the NDF who proposed the motion, more chance of representation in the legislature, while the same goes for smaller ethnic political parties. Yet it is much more complex than this. For constituencies in ethnically concentrated areas, where there is a dominant ethnic political party, for example the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) in Arakan State, FPP is more advantageous for that dominant ethnic political party, as seen in the RNDP’s dominance of the Arakan State legislature. Focusing on winning seats in ethnically concentrated areas might be the only way that ethnic political parties guarantee representation under the first past the post system. Yet under PR, if the total population of a certain ethnic group is under the 1% threshold of votes needed to gain a seat that is typical of PR, then that party will not win any seats at all, even if the ethnic nationality it represents is dominant in certain constituencies.[...]
August 5, 2014
Tags: 2008 Constitution, 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, Burma Partnership, First Past the Post System, Members of Parliament, National Democratic Force, National League for Democracy, Parliament, Proportional representatives, Rakhine Nationalities Development Party, Union Solidarity and Development Party
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The new Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, Ms. Yang Hee Lee, concluded her first visit to the country on 27 November, and unsurprisingly, found the human rights situation troubling, warning of the potential of backtracking on initial reforms, an analysis that resonates with many Burma followers. She outlined her initial findings at Rangoon airport in a statement just as she finished her mission, highlighting the shrinking of democratic space, the ongoing religious violence and discrimination, the deteriorating humanitarian conditions for internally displaced persons (IDPs) – especially Muslims – in Arakan State, the severe human rights abuses in Kachin State, the urgent necessity for legislative reform and the rule of law, the lack of involvement of women in both the peace process and governance, the exclusion of local people in large scale development projects and the impact of such projects on vulnerable communities, and the continuing incarceration of political activists, among other issues.
We welcome Ms. Lee’s open and honest discussion of the term “Rohingya” and her pledge to be guided by international human rights law as regards the use of this term. This was despite the insistence of government officials not to use the word “Rohingya” throughout her trip to Arakan State. On the basis of this principled stance, we are reassured that Ms. Lee will not flinch from using the term when appropriate in the future. After visiting two camps for IDPs, one for Arakan Buddhists and one for Rohingya Muslims, Ms. Lee was troubled by both the terrible conditions in the camps and the lack of humanitarian access that is resulting in people dying due to insufficient medical assistance. She also acknowledged that this situation is “undeniably worse” in the camp for Rohingya. While she did not explicitly state that this is a situation engineered and maintained by the authorities, it is obvious that the unequal treatment of Buddhist and Muslim IDPs is a deliberate policy by the government that further punishes the Rohingya simply due to their ethnicity.
July 29, 2014
Tags: Arakan/Rakhine, Buddhism, Burma Army, Burma Partnership, Government of Myanmar, Human Rights, Human Rights Violations, IDPs, Kachin, Kachin Independence Army, Ms. Yang Hee Lee, Muslims, Peace Process, Refugees, Rohingya, Thailand, Tomas Ojea Quintana, UN General Assembly
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A week ago, rumors began doing the rounds that the Thai military plans to repatriate the 130,000 or so displaced persons from Burma living in nine camps in Thailand along the length of the Burma-Thailand border in the relatively immediate future. The rumors started when General Prayuth Chan-o-cha, Head of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), mentioned that the refugee issue had been discussed with Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of the Burma Army. On 14 July, the Bangkok Post then quoted an unnamed Thai military source saying that working teams have sorted 130,000 refugees into three groups as part of preparations to send them home, a process expected to take around a year or more. A Burma Border Guard Force officer also told Mizzima on 15 July that armed ethnic groups in Karen State would allegedly cooperate in the resettlement of refugees on their return home.
However, according to DVB, Colonel Weerachon Sukondhadpatipak, a spokesman for the Thai military, refuted the rumors: “I don’t think this [repatriation] will happen at this moment. It is an issue we need to solve, but it doesn’t mean we are sending the Burmese people back to [Burma],” Weerachon said. “It is a long process that needs to be discussed with all concerned parties.” Indeed, nationalities would first need to be verified and people head-counted [...]
July 22, 2014
Tags: Border Guard Force, Burma Army, Burma Partnership, Displacement, Government of Myanmar, Human Rights, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand, National Council for Peace and Order, President Thein Sein, Refugee Repatriation, Refugees, Thailand, UNHCR
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In a scarcely believable and punishingly harsh act of repression, four journalists and the CEO of Unity journal were sentenced by a Magwe Region court on 10 July to ten years imprisonment with hard labor for reporting on a story on a chemical weapons factory, giving a damming indictment of press freedom in Burma today. This occurred just days after President Thein Sein described Burma as “one of the freest in Southeast Asia” due to media reforms.
In January 2014, Unity journal published an investigative report on a chemical weapons factory in Magwe Region, central Burma, with accounts from factory workers, local villagers and photos of the site. While the Burma government eventually admitted it is a ‘standard ordnance factory’ that produces ordinary military equipment, an analysis of the images by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies concludes that there is strong evidence that this isn’t just a normal arms factory, and is consistent with chemical weapons factories in other places, such as North Korea. It is ironic that the journalists who published a story on chemical weapons are jailed for ten years under the State Secrets Act, while the Burma government denies it is making chemical weapons. Related to this, a point that has been overlooked slightly over the past week is that Burma must implement the measures of the Chemical Weapons Convention that it signed in 1993 and thus clear up the issue of whether Burma does have the capability to manufacture such equipment, as the Unity journalists reported and are now in prison for. [...]
July 15, 2014
Tags: 2015 Elections, Amnesty International, Arrest, Burma Partnership, Chemical Weapons Convention, Freedom of Expression, Government of Myanmar, Imprisonment, Journalists, Media, President Thein Sein, Reporters Without Borders
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The streets of Mandalay, which just recently drew over 20,000 people in support of National League for Democracy and 88 Generation Peace and Open Society’s joint campaign to amend Section 436 of the Constitution in support of democratic reform, remain deserted this last week as many business owners closed their shutters in fear, following serious unrest in the city. In the second largest city in Burma, violent mobs took over the streets, leaving two people dead and dozens injured. Some stated that over “70 police were here but did nothing,” as Buddhist mobs torched a school in a Muslim area. Ironically the international community has mostly stayed silent in the wake of the recent events when their actions are needed to protect the people of Burma, especially the most vulnerable communities, more than ever.
The series of events began on 1 July, just hours after the extremist Buddhist monk, and leader of the anti-Muslim 969 movement, Wirathu, picked up a questionable post from the social media site Facebook that highlighted an alleged rape of a Buddhist woman committed by two Muslim brothers. According to David Mathieson, a senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, Wirathu, who is based in Mandalay, appeared to have played “a pivotal role” in inciting the unrest, fanning tensions by spreading accusations with religious inferences, while calling for action against the two Muslim brothers who own a teashop in the same area where his monastery is located [...]
July 8, 2014
Tags: 2008 Constitution, 88 Generation Peace and Open Society, 969 Movement, Arakan/Rakhine, Buddhism, Burma Partnership, Genocide, Human Rights Watch, Mandalay, Muslims, National League for Democracy, Riot, Rohingya, U Wirathu, United Nations, Violence
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On 10 June 2014, the Burma government prepared to sign the ‘Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict’ at the end of a three-day global summit, which aimed to “shatter the culture of impunity for sexual violence in conflict.” On the same day, a woman was brutally beaten by a Burma Army soldier during an attempted rape in Rezua, Chin State. The eyewitnesses who spoke to the Chin Human Rights Organization said that the women was held down by the soldier, while he repeatedly beat her. She was rushed to the hospital and is fortunately now in recovery.
However, this brutal event has lead to a series of demonstrations in Rezua and Matupi, Chin State this week, calling for an end to sexual violence. According to The Irrawaddy, protesters held placards that stated: “Stop raping; We are humans, not animals. We are humans, not property.” Though the organizers requested to hold the rally, the local police denied their applications and they have been arrested for staging a peaceful demonstration without permission, ironically under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law.
This recent case of attempted rape is not a one-off incident of a rogue Burma Army soldier. A report produced by Women’s League of Burma (WLB) ‘Same Patterns, Same Impunity’ demonstrates how the sexual violence inflicted by the Burma Army soldiers are systematic in nature and a part of a wider structural system of politicizing women’s bodies and abusing them as instruments of war and oppression. The data collected by WLB and its members found that since the 2010 elections, over 100 cases of rape has been documented, of which 47 were brutal gang rapes and victims were as young as eight years old. Most of the documented cases were linked to Kachin and Northern Shan State where military offensives have been taking place since 2011, indicating that rape and sexual violence is in fact, used as a weapon in an attempt to demoralize the ethnic communities and to assert dominance over them [...]
July 1, 2014
Tags: 2008 Constitution, 2010 Elections, Article 375, Burma Army, Burma Partnership, Chin Human Rights Organization, Chin State, Government of Myanmar, Kachin, Sexual Violence, Shan, UN Secretary-General, United Nations, Women's League of Burma
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The Royal Thai Army’s Internal Security Operations Command (ISOC) last week requested, at short notice, to meet with representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and local NGOs to discuss how refugees from Burma currently living in various camps along the Thai-Burma border can be repatriated in the near future. It is notable, however, that while regional military commanders were present at these meetings, no representatives from the refugee camps themselves or from community-based organizations (CBOs) assisting them were invited. The obvious and disturbing implication is that a decision on the status of refugees inside Thailand is likely to be made in the very near future with minimal consultation with affected parties. Moreover, the timing is not just premature and ill-considered, it is bitterly ironic given that last Friday, 20 June, was #WorldRefugeeDay.
We call upon all parties to respect the UN 1951 Convention and 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, which represents international law as regards the rights of refugees, and is at the very least morally persuasive if not legally binding on the parties concerned. We also call upon all parties to include representatives of the refugee camps and of CBOs in any future meetings on the status of refugees or their potential repatriation. Furthermore, we urge all parties to ensure that repatriation of refugees only takes place when circumstances are appropriate, it is genuinely safe to return, all refugees’ rights are guaranteed by the Burma government, and that, most importantly, such repatriation is completely voluntary[...]
June 23, 2014
Tags: Burma Partnership, Karen women's Organization, Refugees, Royal Thai Army Internal Security Operations Command, UNHCR, World Refugee Day
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