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Public Hearing Exposes Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes in Burma

By Burma Partnership  •  November 8, 2011

Legislators and Civil Society Call on ASEAN to Take a Strong Stance

Jakarta, Indonesia – On the one-year anniversary of Burma’s first elections in 20 years, civil society from Burma and the region held a public hearing and seminar yesterday on human rights abuses that have continued unabated in the last year. In the morning public hearing, moving testimonies were delivered in person and via video by survivors and witnesses of human rights violations including rape, forced labour, conscription of child soldiers, use of landmines, torture and displacement.

A panel of experts expressed their concern about the serious and systematic nature of the human rights violations highlighted in the testimonials, and said that these crimes fit the definition of war crimes as stipulated in the Rome Statute. The panel of experts was comprised of Mr. Nurkholis, Vice-Chair of the Indonesian National Human Rights Commission, Komnas HAM; Dr. Decha Tangseefa, Lecturer in Political Science, Thammasat University in Bangkok, Thailand; and Ms. Wathshlah Naidu, Building Capacity for Change Programme Officer with International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific).

They called on the regime to immediately put an end to these crimes occurring in ethnic nationality areas, on the ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission and ASEAN Committee for the Promotion and Protection of Rights of Women and Children to conduct studies into the human rights situation in the country and on the international community to establish a Commission of Inquiry into crimes against humanity and war crimes. Their findings will be submitted to the upcoming meeting of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission.

In the afternoon seminar, panelists also spoke about ways forward for Burma. “Without addressing Article 445 of the regime’s Constitution, human rights violations will continue with impunity,” said Khin Ohmar. “Just before we came here, we received new testimonies of troops entering Kachin State. And just today, I received news of 4 young women who have been held for the last 10 days as sex slaves in Burma Army barracks. This is happening right now! With the ASEAN Summit meeting in the next two weeks, they have the perfect opportunity to pressure the regime to end these international crimes by further delaying their decision regarding Burma’s bid for the bloc’s chairmanship in 2014.”

Speaking about transitional justice, former Indonesian General Agus Widjojo said, “We did have similar violence and atrocities in Indonesia. Somehow, the nation has to be able to come to an agreement about how they saw the past and what they would like for future generations.”

Khin Ohmar agreed with Mr. Widjojo, “Our call for a Commission of Inquiry is precisely in order to discover the truth about the extent of violations happening in Burma. Truth seeking is a must to prove that we are experiencing democratic transition towards national reconciliation, which is what will bring healing and a way forward for the people of Burma.”

“Out of 6,359 prisoners released on October 12, only 230 were political prisoners, including my beloved mother and two of my family. Luckily they were freed. But two others in my family remain in prison,” shared Nyi Nyi Aung, an activist from the 1988 nationwide democracy uprising, who was arrested again in 2009 and tortured during 6 months of detention. He went on to explain the dire situations faced by political prisoners in Burma: atrocious living conditions and food rations, lack of medical care, torture and denial of family visits.

“Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has said that she believes that Thein Sein is sincere. But if he is sincere, why are nearly 1,700 political prisoners still imprisoned?” asked Nyi Nyi Aung. “If the regime is sincere, it must release all political prisoners, cease attacks on ethnic communities and end human rights violations, and engage in tripartite dialogue.”

Speaking after the event, Saw Kweh Say, a human rights documenter from Karen State who was forced to flee his village as a young child after his father was killed and the village was destroyed by the Burma Army said, “If ASEAN implements any of the experts’ recommendations, it would make a huge difference in the lives of people in ethnic areas.”

Ms. Eva Kusuma Sundari, Indonesian MP and President of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus said, “Indonesia is a big country and we should have big guts. Our Foreign Minister might be soft-spoken, but he needs to be strong in his negotiations with Burma.”

For more information, please contact:

Khin Ohmar – Coordinator, Burma Partnership and the Task Force on ASEAN and Burma: khinohmar@burmapartnership.org or +66818840772 / +628111770165 

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This post is in: Press Release

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