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1 – 7 December: As the Burma Army Fires Live Rounds, the MNHRC Fires Blanks

December 9, 2014

Photo Steve Tickner The Irrawaddy)The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) once again proved the futility of its existence with a deeply unsatisfactory investigation into the murder of journalist Aung Kyaw Naing, a.k.a. Ko Par Gyi by the Burma Army. Rather than providing meaningful avenues for redress for the victim and his family, the investigation report serves to act as a cover for the Burma Army, which is continuing to commit such human rights abuses throughout Burma’s ethnic areas.

Ko Par Gyi was a freelance journalist covering the conflict between the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army (DKBA) and the Burma Army when he was taken into military custody. Five days later he was tortured before being shot to death. The marks of torture were obvious to Ma Thandar, Ko Par Gyi’s wife, when she viewed the dead body. After calls from human rights groups as well as the US State Department, for an independent investigation, President Thein Sein consequently asked the MNHRC to conduct an investigation, the results of which were released on 2 December 2014.

The MNRHC investigation report, however, does not address the key issues surrounding this case, is full of inconsistencies, and does not include key pieces of evidence. It does not provide any explanation of the signs of torture that were clear on his body. The report claims that there had been a fight in which the gun had gone off; however, according to forensic experts that Ko Par Gyi’s wife has spoken to, he had been shot five times, one of which was point blank through the chin, implying that he had been shot four times before being killed.

Furthermore, the report claims that it cannot be concluded whether or not he was a member of the Klohtoobaw Karen Organization (KKO), the political wing of the DKBA, but this has been refuted by his family, the DKBA itself, and his journalist colleagues in the local area and in Rangoon. Furthermore ten out of 16 pages of the report were dedicated to the fighting itself rather than details of the case. As Ma Thandar points out, “Only on the last page of the report does it mention that citizens’ rights, as provided for by the Constitution, should be protected. It barely mentioned human rights.” This is a damning indictment of a national human rights institution. It should not matter whether or not Ko Par Gyi was a member of the KKO. The point is that he was brutally tortured and murdered while in military custody. The Burma Army should not be able to do this, whether a member of an armed group or not.

The lawyers and family of Ko Par Gyi have been dealt another injustice with the release of this report. They are not alone in experiencing further grief and pain due to the actions or inactions of the MNHRC. A statement released by ‘The Ja Seng Ing Truth Finding Committee’ explains about a case in Kachin State in September 2012. Burma Army soldiers indiscriminately fired into houses at close range in a village in Hpakant Township, killing a 14 year old schoolgirl, Ja Seng Ing. Her father, Brang Shawng, wrote a letter to both Thein Sein and the MNHRC, asking for an investigation to find justice for his dead daughter. Not only did the MNHRC not investigate the case, but the Burma Army is charging Brang Shawng for false accusations based on his letter to the MNHRC.

The MNHRC has proved to be ineffective while serving to pile more misery on the victims and families of victims of severe human rights violations. It is acting as a tool to cover the atrocities that are committed by the Burma Army on a systematic level. Robert San Aung, the lawyer for Ko Par Gyi’s family, put it succinctly and tellingly, “We ask the President to have an independent body look at this case.” The MNRHC is simply not trusted. Until the MNHRC proves its worth by conducting a rigorous and independent investigation into actions taken by the Burma Army or any state authorities, it will continue to exacerbate human rights problems rather than protect human rights as it is supposed to. The MNHRC must begin to adhere to international standards for national human rights institutions, such as the Paris Principles, and gain trust from the people by taking an independent stance and standing up to the state authorities. Otherwise, its credibility and legitimacy will be permanently damaged by such flawed investigations as seen in the case of Ko Par Gyi.

News Highlights  

Mandalay authorities use forceful measure to remove scores of poor families from the banks of Irrawaddy upon the Norwegian monarch’s visit and Mandalay authorities bar independent local media from covering the visit of Norway’s King Harald to Mandalay, allowing only state-run media to access the event

Gen. Gun Maw, vice chief of staff of the Kachin Independence Army, says trust in Burma Government was at an all-time low despite years of peace talks aimed at resolving the conflict in the country’s north and camps for internally displaced persons near Laiza, the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organization, face a shortage of food supplies amid reported restrictions on UN and NGOs’ humanitarian aid deliveries

Inside Burma

The Nationwide Ceasefire Coordination Team leaders say they may not hold further talks with the Union Peace-making Work Committee if there is no agreement on the remaining points of dissention in the ceasefire accord

Twelve of Burma’s ethnic armed groups announce the establishment of a Federal Union Army under the supervision of the United Nationalities Federal Council, a move likely to anger the national government

Burma’s Election Commission says the US-based International Republican Institute’s election campaign training for the branch of National League for Democracy in Irrawaddy Region’s Pyapon district had violated election laws and regulations as it provided exclusive support for one party

Twenty-six MPs in Burma’s upper house of parliament sign a petition urging the constitutional tribunal to decide whether the two proposed designs for a Proportional Representation voting system are in line with the 2008 constitution

Sai Thurein Oo, MP of Nam Zarng, and Sai Kyaw Zeya, MP of Laikha from Shan National Democratic Party quit their mother organization to join the Shan National League for Democracy

A group of 54 civil society organizations and ethnic political parties jointly condem the Burma Army’s deadly shelling of a Kachin rebel training school two weeks ago, saying that it could threaten the country’s national ceasefire process

An army officer, Major Kyaw Swar Win, is sentenced to two years in prison for violating regulations that bar military men from supporting political campaigns, after signing a petition calling for an end to the military grip on the constitution drafted by the former regime

Four discriminatory ‘protection of religion’ bills that restrict interfaith marriage are submitted to Parliament

Commander in Chief of the Burma Army meets with top Karen National Union leadership in Naypyidaw

Six activists from the All Burma Federation of Student Unions to face charges in Pegu Region under the Peaceful Procession and Peaceful Assembly Law for organising a public rally without official permission


Thailand and Burma government will sign a Memorandum of Understanding moving forward with a much delayed and contested Dawei Special Economic Zone project

The two Burmese migrants are charged for the murders of two British tourists on Thailand’s Koh Tao island, and the trial will begin on Monday and the families of two victims say the evidence against the two Burmese men accused of committing the crime is convincing and they had seen strong evidence against the suspects and expressed confidence in the case

The UN refugee agency says about 53,000 people left Bangladesh and Burma on treacherous smuggling boats bound for Thailand and Malaysia this year, about 540 of them dying on the journey

Malaysia pardons 52 Burmese nationals who were jailed by Malaysian immigration authorities in August on charge of entering the country on fake visas


US Adm. Harry Harris Jr. says the time isn’t right to expand military ties with Burma as the country remains “firmly under military control.”

Representatives from four ethnic armed groups request Norwegian Foreign Minister to deliver humanitarian aid directly to Burma’s refugees in conflict areas through Non-Governmental Organizations, instead of government

France’s Minister for Development and Francophony Annick Giradin, who is currently visiting Burma, says the French government plans to increase aid to the country but only after it has confirmed next year’s general election as free and fair

Berlin-based watchdog Transparency International says Burma is the third most corrupt country in the Asia-Pacific region and the 156th most corrupt of 175 nations surveyed

The Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) will help Burma in launching two rural development projects to boost socio- economic status of locals


Norway’s Changing Role in Burma: Drive by Peace or Business?
By Mon Mon Myat
The Irrawaddy

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This post is in: Weekly Highlights