Foundation of Fear: 25 years of Villagers’ Voices from Southeast Myanmar

Executive Summary and Introduction

KHRG presents ‘Foundation of Fear’, an extensive 25 years review, with the intention of amplifying the voices of rural communities in southeast Myanmar and making their perspectives central to understand the human rights abuses that they have lived through. It shows how decades of abuse which remain unresolved and in some cases unacknowledged deeply affect the prospect of sustainable and genuine peace throughout Myanmar as a whole. The rationale of this report is therefore not only to ask ‘what has changed?’ over KHRG’s 25 years, but also to project villagers’ recommendations for ‘what still needs to change’ in order to build an environment in southeast Myanmar in support of villagers’ rights and in support of their un-met needs for security, peace and justice. Therefore, the testimonies presented here of ‘what has come before’ must form the necessary foundation for understanding ‘what must come next’ for Myanmar on its path to peace. Only by raising these difficult questions can we prevent human rights abuses from being forgotten, silenced and, crucially, from continuing and being repeated.

To make this possible, KHRG has taken a significant sample of the thousands of reports we have produced during this 25 years time period. The eventual report therefore is taken from an initial analysis of 944 KHRG reports and draws directly on 489 KHRG documents: 312 published reports and 177 unpublished reports including, 114 interviews, 116 situation updates and 106 photo notes and photo sets collected consistently between November 1992 and March 2017. Through villagers’ voices this report therefore grounds present day human rights abuses that are of particular concern for villagers in southeast Myanmar, ranging from development to discrimination, and from militarisation to refugee return, within a context of a quarter of a century of human rights abuses. Throughout the chapters presented here, ‘Foundation of Fear’ emphasises how powerful actors continue to violate villagers’ rights while uncovering concerning trends where the history of violent abuse, ethnic discrimination and neglect of basic services for rural communities in southeast Myanmar continues to repeat itself. These trends have created a legacy of abuses that has only been exacerbated by the impunity of Myanmar’s most powerful actors for the deliberate, systematic, interlinked abuses against Karen and other communities evidenced here. In revisiting the perspectives and abuses reported over 25 years, ‘Foundation of Fear’ offers direct insights into villagers’ current experiences and perceptions on the ground, including the holistic nature of abuses which have culminated in communities being broken, countless families choosing to displace themselves from southeast Myanmar, and the multitude of impacts that these abuses have, from disease to debt, and from a lack of education and livelihood opportunities to persistent fears of the military and distrust of the government.

Of equal importance, this report exposes new areas following the 2012 preliminary ceasefire era, in which villagers’ rights are at risk of being exploited, such as by private companies in the development sector, through financial demands made on villagers by armed groups, and by the premature return of refugees and internally displaced persons from camps. In doing so, it further highlights villagers’ agency strategies and their successes and barriers in accessing justice, recognising that at no point throughout KHRG’s reporting period have villagers been passive recipients of abuse but have actively sought ways to avoid, confront or mitigate abuses and their impacts.

With all points considered, this report evidences the many ways that a climate of fear, insecurity and abuse which generations of villagers in southeast Myanmar have lived through has yet to end, and how considerable challenges persist, resulting in significant implications for villagers’ perceptions of the Myanmar government, Tatmadaw and the stability of the current peace process.

This report is essential for stakeholders in southeast Myanmar to develop a fuller awareness of the historical context in which they are active, and to consider their responsibility towards what still needs to change to end ongoing violations of human rights in southeast Myanmar. Furthermore, this report will be insightful as it assesses the history of division, discrimination and human rights abuse of Myanmar’s ethnic and religious minorities, which still holds significant influence across the region. Stakeholders with specific responsibility in addressing what still needs to change are identified in KHRG’s Recommendations, including the Myanmar government, the Karen National Union, development actors in southeast Myanmar, Tatmadaw and ethnic armed groups. As the peace process moves ahead, now it is imperative for all relevant stakeholders to address the historic foundation of abuse and the continuing rights abuses committed by Myanmar’s most powerful actors against minority groups.

Download full report in English HERE.

Download the briefer in English HERE.

အစီရင္ခံစာ ျမန္မာဘာသာကုိ ဤေနရာတြင္ ရယူႏုိင္သည္။

အစီရင္ခံစာ အႏွစ္ခ်ဳပ္ ျမန္မာဘာသာကုိ ဤေနရာတြင္ ရယူႏုိင္သည္။

အစီရင္ခံစာ အႏွစ္ခ်ဳပ္ ကရင္ဘာသာကုိ ဤေနရာတြင္ ရယူႏုိင္သည္။

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