Burma Partnership, Strengthening Cooperation for a Free Burma
Signup Now!
Join our mailing list for latest news and information about Burma.

11 August – 17 August: Reform of the Police and the Judiciary is a Matter of Urgency

August 19, 2014

Polices stand guard in Monywa townshipOver 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.

The AHRC also reports that, on 4 July, police in Bago No. 1 Police Station arrested a 37-year-old man, Zin Aung, without an arrest warrant or court order, and without notifying an administrative officer, on grounds of stealing bottles of motorcycle fuel.  While in custody for three days, he was tortured, and subsequently died of his injuries.  According to the AHRC, police have now been threatening the relatives of the deceased.  This case follows on the heels of other custodial torture cases which implicate the Burma Police Force, such as those of Kyaw Nyunt, Than Htun, and Myo Myint Swe.

Furthermore, Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma (ND-Burma) has published its periodic Report on the Human Rights Situation in Burma covering the first half of 2014.  ND-Burma’s report focuses on 103 documented cases of human rights violations in Burma from January to June 2014.  There are many serious human rights cases highlighted in the report, including ones of torture, extra-judicial killing, illegal arrests and detentions, forced displacement and rape.  Many such cases clearly entail the collusion or actual involvement of the Burma Police Force or enforcement agencies.

These cases show that there is a long way to go in terms of reforming the Burma Police Force.  Rather than protecting people from violent crime, the police are perpetrating violent crime; rather than respecting people’s human rights, they are abusing them; rather than enhancing security, they are undermining it; rather than supporting the judiciary, they are using it to do their dirty work, or even by-passing it altogether; and rather than assuaging the fears of communities around the country, they are exacerbating those fears.

The European Union (EU) has been working with the Burma Police Force on its police reform program.  The EU states that “it has decided to support the reform of the [Burma] police force in the areas of crowd management and community policing [emphasis added] with a €10 million package.  Improving respect by the police for human rights and the accountability of the police to Parliament, civil society and the media will be at the heart of this action [again, emphasis added].”  The aims are noble, but the implementation clearly leaves a lot to be desired.

The Burma Police Force requires intensive, rigorous, principled training on effective policing and human rights compliance throughout the country.  Disciplinary procedures need to be implemented at all levels of the police force.  Any policeman discovered to be in breach of any rules or regulations needs to be subjected to the appropriate disciplinary procedure, all the way from verbal warnings to jail sentences, depending on the offense.

At the same time, in order to tackle police impunity properly, the Burma Government needs to show political will, especially as regards reforming the judiciary, so that victims of police brutality will start to develop confidence in the system and feel that they have a genuine avenue to redress for such brutalities and rights abuses.  However, if the Burma Police Force remains unaccountable and impunity is not tackled, then police brutality will not only continue but the impunity will become more entrenched – however many millions the EU pours into its police reform programs.

News Highlights  

Hla Maung Shwe from Myanmar Peace Center says Burma’s central government agreed to the principle of establishing a federal union based on democracy, ethnic equality and self-determination, a proposal raised by ethnic leaders

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warns health condition in Rakhine State has seriously deteriorated since it was expelled earlier this year, urging Burma government to follow its commitment to allow operations to resume, since they have not received any official word from the government, though the government had announced MSF would be allowed to operate in Rakhine State

Inside Burma  

National League for Democracy and 88 Generation Peace and Open Society presents Union Parliament Speaker Shwe Mann with a petition signed by nearly 5 million people across Burma for charter reform, urging Parliament to seriously consider reform, yet the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party showed disregard and questioned the public’s knowledge of the constitution

The Union Peace-Making Working Committee meets with 67 registered political parties at the Myanmar Peace Center for the first time to discuss the political parties’ involvement in future peace talks

According to a survey that interviewed 6,510 people from Rangoon and Mandalay in late 2012 to end of 2013, president Thein Sein has become less popular among the public in regards to his performance in areas such as governance, economy, health, and education sectors

Preliminary findings of the controversial census, which is to be released soon, show that the total population is likely to be less than the widely accepted estimate of 60 million people, while the new census leaves out the Rohingya population in Arakan State and areas controlled by the Kachin Independence Army

An officer from Kachin Independence Army (KIA) says armed clashes between KIA and Burma Army took place twice over the past week at Sabaw Maw, a ruby mine located in an area controlled by KIA when Burma Army entered the mine area where they exchanged heavy fire, leaving at least four government soldiers dead and as 200 villagers are displaced due to the fighting between the KIA and Burma Army in Hpakant, Kachin State, a ruby mining area, a jade mining is also set to resume next month

Burma Army commander apologize to displaced Kachin villagers who were forced to flee their homes in a clash between KIA and the Burma Army, but some are skeptical of the move, believing that the transfer is a short-term solution that does not address the long-term systematic abuses by the Burma Army

The Karen National Union warns the situation in Burma is not yet stable enough to repatriate the refugees from Thailand-Burma border, and promises to block any effort of refugee repatriation without guarantees of their safety and dignity as well as conducting in accordance with the international humanitarian guidelines

Pegu regional government promises to help local farmers whose paddy fields were damaged in recent flood, planning to provide seeds and 15,000 kyat for damaged paddy fields and 5,000 kyat for not damaged ones for each acre

More than 22,000 acres of farmland in Mon State which have been confiscated by previous military regime and current government remain unresolved, though the Government has promised to return the land to its original owners

The court in Pabedon Township, Rangoon, denies bail for four journalists and a publisher of Bi Mon Te Nay weekly journal, saying relevant witnesses have not yet been questioned – a precondition for granting bail in sedition cases

The high court in Rakhine State rejects an appeal of seven men accused of murdering 10 Muslims in Taunggup Township in Rakhine State in 2012, an event which became a catalyst for the mob of violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the region, while the lawyer of the accused is perplexed by the fact that the six of the seven men are not from Taunggup Township

Burma’s senior police says the main cause of human trafficking in Burma is due to the lack of employment, and reducing unemployment solves the issue of human trafficking

Ooredoo, a Quatari operator officially launch its mobile services introducing low-cost top-up and Internet access option


Representatives from Chin National Front, All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, and Karenni National Progressive Party attends the Asian Peace Conference organized by Asian Center for Peace Conference in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where they discussed their experiences on the ongoing peace process with Burma Government

Japan’s top three banks, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. and Mizuho Bank, plan to open branches in Burma, and applied for licenses last month with the Burma Government

Burma to open three more border trade points, two in Taninthayi Region and Kayah State linking Thailand, while one in Chin State connecting India, to promote border trade with neighboring countries, while Burma authorities are cracking down on illegal border trade


U.S. waves sanctions on Timber sector in Burma, raising further concerns regarding Burma’s deeply corrupted extractive industries, while some see the step as an opportunity for community-led, sustainable initiatives to take root, though watchdog groups warn it is still too difficult to tell whether timber harvested in Burma is linked to social and environmental harm


The Strategic Importance of Burma for India
By Sridhar Ramaswamy and Tridivesh Singh Maini
The Diplomat

The Spoils of Aid in Burma: Transition a Boon for Former Dictators
By Jonathan Hulland
The Irrawaddy

Hugo Swire, Ethnic Cleansing of Rohingya Isn’t a ‘Bump in the Road’
By Mark Farmaner
Huffington Post

Latest from the Blog

Political Opposition in Burma Must Ignore Distractions and Focus on Policy
By Burma Partnership


In Sagaing region, 1,500 farmers stage a rally demanding Burma’s President and relevant authorities return all farmland confiscated by Burma Army, release 57 jailed land rights activists, dismiss all outstanding trials related to land protest, and immediately halt the destruction of crops by Burma Army

Statements and Press Releases

အမ်ဳိးသား ဒီမိုကေရစီအဖြဲ႔ခ်ဳပ္ႏွင့္ ၈၈မ်ိဳးဆက္ ျငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရးႏွင့္ ပြင့္လင္းလူ႔အဖြဲ႔အစည္း တို႔၏ ၂၀၀၈ ဖြဲ႔စည္းပုံ အေျခခံဥပေဒ ပုဒ္မ ၄၃၆ ျပင္ဆင္ေရးႏွင့္ ပတ္သက္၍ ျပည္သူလူထု လက္မွတ္ေရးထိုး ဆႏၵခံယူပြဲ ရလဒ္မ်ားကို အေျခခံ၍ လိုအပ္သလို ဆက္လက္အေရးယူ ေဆာင္ရြက္ႏိုင္ရန္ တင္ျပျခင္း
By National League for Democracy and 88 Generation Peace and Open Society

၂၀၀၄ခုႏွစ္၊ ၾသဂုတ္လ(၁၁)ရက္ ေန႔စြဲျဖင့္ ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရးျဖစ္စဥ္အေပၚ အျပန္အလွန္ေဆြးေႏြးျခင္း အခမ္းအနား တက္ေရာက္ၾကသည့္ ႏိုင္ငံေရးပါတီမ်ား၏ သေဘာထား ထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္ စာတမ္းတြင္ အမ်ဳိးသားဒီမိုကေရစီအဖြဲ႔ခ်ဳပ္၊ တိုင္းရင္းသား ပါတီးမ်ားနွင့္ အျခားပါတီးမ်ားလည္း ပါ၀င္ျခင္းမရွိေၾကာင္း ေၾကညာခ်က္
By National League for Democracy

New Report by Network for Human Rights Documentation-Burma (ND-Burma) Documenting On-going Human Rights Abuses in Burma
By Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma


January – June 2014: Report on the Human Rights Situation on Burma
By Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma

This post is in: Weekly Highlights