Facts Must Prevail

September 27th, 2017  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  7 minute read
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On 19 September, 2017, the Chairperson of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Myanmar[1], Marzuki Darusman, addressed the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) for the first time since the FFM was mandated by the HRC in March 2017. Since then, the grave deterioration of the human rights situation in Rakhine State, the lack of access for humanitarian agencies and media organizations, and the spread of misinformation only highlights why there is an urgent need for such a mission.

The HRC Resolution mandates the mission to investigate human rights violations in Myanmar “including but not limited to arbitrary detention, torture and inhuman treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence, extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings, enforced disappearances, forced displacement and unlawful destruction of property”. The FFM will investigate violations committed by the military and security forces throughout the country, particularly where there have been armed clashes, including Rakhine, Shan and Kachin States since 2011 . Given the grave violations committed by the Myanmar Army, particularly in ethnic areas, as well as the recent Myanmar Army operations that have forced 436,000 Rohingya to flee into Bangladesh, the geographical and temporal scope of the FFM are necessary. The statement also requests an extension until September 2018 for the FFM to give its final report.

The horrors of the last few weeks in northern Rakhine State are still sending shockwaves around the world. Human Rights Watch has documented the laying of landmines by the Myanmar Army along the Bangladeshi border where people are fleeing while Amnesty International released a statement with fresh evidence that the Rohingya villages are still being torched. Reports of widespread gang rape of Rohingya women have also emerged. It is not surprising that every day, the number of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh is increasing, and up to half the Rohingya population living in Rakhine State has fled in just one month. The intention of the FFM to investigate violations committed in northern Myanmar is also much needed. At the same time as the Myanmar Army’s operations in Rakhine State, it was also arresting, torturing and killing civilians in Shan State, as documented by the Shan Human Rights Foundation.

Documentation from Bangladesh and satellite imagery of torched villages can only go so far to finding out the extent of what has occurred in Rakhine State, underlining the importance of the work of the FFM and also the obstacles created by the Myanmar Government by not allowing the FFM access to the country. Yet in the speech by State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi made on 19 September she stated that “we want to find out why this exodus is happening”, while also inviting the international community to go to Rakhine State to see for themselves. This invitation, however, does not extend to the FFM.

Meanwhile, the lack of media access and independent reporting from Rakhine State has been fertile ground for the rapid spread of disinformation, false information and hate speech from various actors. Fake social media accounts are spreading doctored photos and outright lies which are being taken as fact by many inside and outside the country. The bias and disingenuous stream of information coming from the spokesperson for the President’s Office, Zaw Htay, only compounds matters. For example, when Zaw Htay  posted photos that were purported to show Rohingya burning their own villages, these were quickly discredited when a BBC correspondent on a rare Government escorted trip, had access to the area. After a Hindu woman vigorously denounced the actions of local Rohingya Muslims, the correspondent realized that she was one of the women in the photograph posted by Zaw Htay as ‘proof’ of the Rohingya burning their own homes, demonstrating that the photographs were obviously staged. As reports emerge of mass graves being found in Rakhine State, and the Government claiming the victims were Hindus killed by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army – which has been denied by the group – it is difficult to comprehend clearly what happened to those villagers. The FFM can obviously play a clear role in separating fact from fiction.

“We are today witnessing one of the greatest human rights and humanitarian tragedies of our times.”

Progressive Voice Advisory Board member, Khin Ohmar

In an oral statement to the Human Rights Council, Khin Ohmar, on behalf of Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development stated, “we are today witnessing one of the greatest human rights and humanitarian tragedies of our times.” In this context, it is almost implausible that the Myanmar Government refuses to allow access for the FFM. Yet as Chairperson Marzuki Darusman points out, “The hundreds of thousands of refugees, internally displaced people, affected communities, and all victims of alleged human rights violations and abuses, deserve a truthful account of what happened and who is responsible.”


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases


FORUM-ASIA: HRC36 Oral Statement on Burma/Myanmar
By Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development

UN: Myanmar Rohingya Exodus Exposes Abject Failure of World Leaders to Deliver Solution to Refugee Crisis
By Amnesty International

Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi “burying her head in the sand” about Rakhine Horrors
By Amnesty International

Myanmar: Video and Satellite Evidence Shows new Fires still Torching Rohingya Villages
By Amnesty International

Aung San Suu Kyi’s Disingenuous Speech fails to Address Rohingya Genocide
By Arakan Rohingya National Organisation

Campaign Success – UK Stops Training Burma Military. Now Must Back Global Arms Embargo
By Burma Campaign UK

Rohingya Crisis: EU Missing In Action: UK Must Lead Again
By Burma Campaign UK

9,000 Who Fled Military Attacks at Risk as Donors Cut Aid
By Burma Campaign UK

Burma: CSW Calls for Arms Embargo and UN Resolution on Rohingya Crisis
By Christian Solidarity Worldwide

ASEAN Chairman’s Statement on The Humanitarian Situation in Rakhine State
By Foreign Ministers of ASEAN

Statement on the Detention in Bangladesh of Two Photojournalists from Myanmar
By Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Thailand

Human Rights Council Holds Interactive Dialogue with the Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar
By  Human Rights Council

Burma: Landmines Deadly for Fleeing Rohingya
By Human Rights Watch

Oral statement for the Interactive Dialogue with the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar
By International Federation for Human Rights

Uphold and Protect the People’s Collective Rights and Dignity of the Rohingya
By International Migrants Alliance

Karen Human Rights Group Statement on International Day of Peace 2017
By Karen Human Rights Group

ကရင္လူ႔အခြင့္အေရးအဖဲြ႔ အျပည္ျပည္ဆုိင္ရာ ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရးေန႔အတြက္ ထုတ္ျပန္ေၾကညာခ်က္
By Karen Human Rights Group

Karen Women’s Organization Statement on Burmese Military Persecution of the Rohingya People
By Karen Women’s Organization

Statement by Mr. Marzuki Darusman, Chairperson of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar
By Mr. Marzuki Darusman, Chairperson of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar

(Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar)၏ ဥကၠဌ Mr. Marzuki DARUSMAN ၏ ထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္
By Mr. Marzuki Darusman, Chairperson of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar

အမ်ဳိးသမီးမ်ားအဖြဲ႕ခ်ဳပ္ (ျမန္မာႏုိင္ငံ) ၏ အျပည္ျပည္ဆုိင္ရာ ၿငိမ္းခ်မ္းေရးေန႕ ထုတ္ျပန္ေၾကညာခ်က္
By Women’s League of Burma



Ongoing Torture, Killing, Arbitrary Arrests during Midnight Raids by Burma Army in Ho Pong Township
By Shan Human Rights Foundation

၂၀၁၇ခုႏွစ္ ဇူလိုင္လ ကုန္မွစ၍ အစိုးရစစ္တပ္မွ ရွမ္းျပည္နယ္ေျမာက္ပိုင္း ဟိုပံုးျမိဳ့နယ္အတြင္း ကင္းလွည့္ စဥ္ ရိုက္ႏွက္ ျခင္း၊ ဖမ္းဆီးျခင္း၊သတ္ျဖတ္ျခင္း ၊လူ ့အခြင့္အေရးခ်ိဳးေဖာက္ျခင္း မ်ားကို က်ဳးလြန္ေနသည္။
By Shan Human Rights Foundation

Beyond Panglong: Myanmar’s National Peace and Reform Dilemma
By Transnational Institute

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”