Civil Society Organizations Calls for Immediate Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Myanmar

15 April 2020

We, the undersigned civil society organizations and individual call for the protection of civilians in armed conflict in Myanmar and for the State to comply with its obligations under the Geneva Conventions and UN Security Council Resolutions 1265, 1296 and 1325. The current targeting of innocent civilians in the conflict between the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar military amounts to war crimes and must immediately cease.

The conflict between the Myanmar military and the AA has displaced up to 150,000 people in Rakhine and Chin States since 2018 and its impacts are being felt most keenly by innocent civilians. In the past 30 days alone, 28 villagers in Chin State, have sadly died as a result of the conflict. The Myanmar military has been deliberately targeting civilians through the use of airstrikes from fighter jets. On 7 April 2020, airstrikes on the village of Hnang Chaung Village, Paletwa Township, in Chin State by two Myanmar military fighter jets killed seven people, injuring eight more and burning several houses to the ground. Among the victims were two children, a mother and a baby. This was the second airstrike within one week, as more civilians were injured during an attack on Bawngwa Village on 31 March. Last month, on 14 and 15 of March, multiple attacks on several villages in Paletwa Township killed 21 civilians, again including children.

These attacks have been conducted with total disregard for civilian life and would constitute indiscriminate attacks or even direct targeting of civilian population. Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions specifically prohibits “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds” of civilians and persons hors de combat. In addition, “wilful killing” of protected persons is listed as a grave breach under all four Geneva Conventions, which Myanmar ratified in 1992. Thus, targeting innocent civilians, such as the airstrikes on villages in Paletwa Township, can be considered a serious violation of international humanitarian law and customs, which constitutes as war crimes under the Rome Statue.

Furthermore, UN Security Resolutions 1265 and 1296 addresses the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Resolution 1265 “Strongly condemns the deliberate targeting of civilians in situations of armed conflict as well as attacks on objects protected under international law, and calls on all parties to put an end to such practices” while also emphasizing “the responsibility of States to end impunity and to prosecute those responsible for genocide, crimes against humanity and serious violations of international humanitarian law.”

Additionally, UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, “Calls on all parties to armed conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, and all other forms of violence in situations of armed conflict.” This is especially salient in the case of Myanmar, which has repeatedly used sexual violence in armed conflict for decades. Related to this the Joint Communique that the Myanmar government and the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict signed in December 2018 has not been brought to women from the conflict affected areas for consultation while the ongoing sexual and gender-based violence committed by the Myanmar military in ethnic areas flies in the face of any supposed commitment of the government in signing such Joint Communique with the UN’s SRSG’s office in the first place.

Finally, the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which Myanmar has ratified, recognizes “that every child has an inherent right to life” and Myanmar must ensure to the “maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.” As a state party to the Geneva Conventions and the CRC, and as a UN member state, Myanmar has an obligation to comply with these instruments of international law.

Meanwhile, the Association of Southeast Asian Nation’s (ASEAN) reluctance to become substantively involved is a missed opportunity for the block to play a key role in resolving the increasing escalation of violence. Rather than standing idly by and endorsing the narrative of the Myanmar government, ASEAN can seek to couple its humanitarian initiatives with engaging the government in addressing root causes of violence, while utilizing their good offices to seek a solution to the ongoing violence that is affecting countries beyond the borders of Myanmar.

As the whole world is taking measures to protect against the coronavirus pandemic, the targeting of innocent civilians in southern Chin State, through the use of airstrikes and other military operations, is causing tragic and unnecessary loss that amount to war crimes. It must end immediately. These war crimes are a blatant contravention to the Geneva Conventions and are destroying communities. We urge the immediate end to all attacks that target civilians and to protect the lives of innocent people.

For more information, please contact:

Signed by:

  1. Alliance for Conflict Transformation (ACT), Cambodia
  2. ALTSEAN-Burma
  3. Asian Resource Foundation (ARF), Thailand
  4. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
  5. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  6. ASEAN SOGIE Caucus
  7. Association of Women for Awareness and Motivation (AWAM), Pakistan
  8. AwazCDS-Pakistan
  9. Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha, (MASUM), India
  10. Balay Alternative Legal Advocates for Development in Mindanaw (Balaod Mindanaw), the Philippines
  11. Bodhigram, India
  12. Burma Campaign UK (BCUK)
  13. Bytes For All, Pakistan
  14. Cambodian Civil Society Partnership (CCSP), Cambodia
  15. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Cambodia
  16. Center for Human Rights and Development (CHRD), Mongolia
  17. Centre for Communication and Development Studies (CCDS), India
  18. Center for Conflict Resolution (CECORE), Uganda
  19. Center for Peace Education-Miriam College, the Philippines
  20. Civil and Human Rights Network (CSHRN), Afghanistan
  21. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)
  22. Civil Rights Defenders (CRD)
  23. Coalition for Integrity and Social Accountability (CISA), Cambodia
  24. Covenants Watch, Taiwan
  25. Community Resource Centre Foundation (CRC), Thailand
  26. Centre for the Sustainable Use of Natural and Social Resources (CSNR), India
  27. Community Self Reliance Centre (CSRC), Nepal
  28. Desaparecidos, the Philippines
  29. Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC)
  30. Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC)-Southeast
  31. Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC)-North America
  32. Globe International Center (GIC), Mongolia
  33. GZO Peace Institute, Philippines
  34. HAK Association, Timor Leste
  35. Hustisya, Philippines
  36. IM Center for Peace and Dialogue, Indonesia
  37. Info-Birmanie, France
  38. INFORM Human Rights Documentation Centre, Colombo, Sri Lanka
  39. Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), Philippines
  40. JANANEETHI, India
  41. Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC), Roma, Italia
  42. Karapatan Alliance Philippines
  43. Kazakhstan International Bureau for Human Rights and the Rule of Law (KIBHR)
  44. KontraS (Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence), Indonesia
  45. Korean House for International Solidarity
  46. Legal Aid Foundation Indonesia
  47. Maldivian Democracy Network (MDN)
  48. The Mekong Butterfly, Thailand
  49. MONFEMNET National Network, Mongolia
  50. Odhikar, Bangladesh
  51. Oyu Tolgoi Watch, Mongolia 
  52. Pax Christi Pilipinas, the Philippines
  53. People’s Watch, India
  54. People’s Empowerment Foundation (PEF), Thailand
  55. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA)
  56. Public Association “Dignity”, Kazakhstan
  57. Pusat KOMAS, Malaysia
  58. People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights (PVCHR), India
  59. Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU), University of Dhaka, Bangladesh
  60. Research and Education for Peace, Universiti Sains Malaysia (REPUSM), Malaysia
  61. Recourse, Netherlands
  62. Right to Life Human Rights Centre, Sri Lanka
  63. Rivers without Boundaries Mongolia
  64. Samahan ng Ex-detainees Laban sa Detensyon at Aresto (Society of Ex-Detainees against Detention and Arrests in the Philippines)
  65. South India Cell for Human Rights Education and Monitoring (SICHREM)
  66. Southeast Asia Conflict Studies Network (SEACSN), Malaysia
  67. Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), Malaysia
  68. Swedish Burma Committee (SBC), Sweden
  69. Tanggol Bayi (Defend Women), Philippines
  70. Think Center, Singapore
  71. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines (TFDP)
  72. US Campaign for Burma (USCB), United States
  73. Vietnamese Women for Human Rights (VNWHR)
  74. Witness Radio Organisation, Uganda
  75. Women’s Rehabilitation Centre (WOREC), Nepal
  76. Youth for Peace (YFP), Cambodia
  77. Action Committee for Democracy Development (ACDD), Burma/Myanmar
  78. Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization, Burma/Myanmar
  79. Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), Burma/Myanmar
  80. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP), Burma/Myanmar
  81. Australia Chin Federation (ACF)
  82. Burmese Women’s Union (BWU), Burma/Myanmar
  83. Center of Development and Ethnic Studies (CDES), Burma/Myanmar
  84. Chin American Association (CAA)
  85. Chin Christian Council in Australia (CCCA)
  86. Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), Burma/Myanmar
  87. Chin Youth Organization of North America (CYONA)
  88. Chinbridge Institute (CI), Burma/Myanmar
  89. Chin Community in Norway (CCN)
  90. Chin Community of Indiana (CCI), USA
  91. Central Chin Youth Organization (CCYO), Burma/Myanmar
  92. Chin Civil Society Network (CCSN), Burma/Myanmar
  93. Chin Literature and Culture Committee (Universities – Yangon), Burma/Myanmar
  94. Chin Refugee Committee (Delhi), India
  95. Chin Student Union, Burma/Myanmar
  96. Chin Community in Denmark (CCDK)
  97. Chin Women Organization (Hakha), Burma/Myanmar
  98. Cherry Foundation (Yangon), Burma/Myanmar
  99. Equality Myanmar (EQMM), Burma/Myanmar
  100. Future Light Center (FLC), Burma/Myanmar
  101. Genuine People’s Servants (GPS), Burma/Myanmar
  102. Generation Wave (GW), Burma/Myanmar
  103. Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM), Burma/Myanmar
  104. Human Rights Educators Network (HREN), Burma/Myanmar
  105. Independent Chin Communities (ICC), Malaysia
  106. Indigenous Peoples’ Partnership (IPP), Burma/Myanmar
  107. Karen Women’s Organization (KWO), Burma/Myanmar
  108. Karenni Human Rights Group (KnHRG), Burma/Myanmar
  109. Karenni Legal and Human Rights Center (KnLHRC), Burma/Myanmar
  110. Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG), Burma/Myanmar
  111. Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT), Burma/Myanmar
  112. Loka Ahlinn (Social Development Network), Burma/Myanmar
  113. Khumi Affairs Coordination Council (KACC), Burma/Myanmar
  114. Koung Jor Shan Refugee Camp (KJSRC), Burma/Myanmar
  115. Metta Campaign – Mandalay, Burma/Myanmar
  116. Myanmar Human Rights Alliance Network (MHRAN), Burma/Myanmar
  117. Myanmar People Alliance (Shan State) (MPA-SS), Burma/Myanmar
  118. Myanmar Cultural Research Society (MCRS), Burma/Myanmar
  119. Peace & Development Center (Meikhtila), Burma/Myanmar
  120. Progressive Voice (PV), Burma/Myanmar
  121. Reliable Organization, Burma/Myanmar
  122. Synergy (Social Harmony Organization), Burma/Myanmar
  123. Ta’ang Women’s Organization (TWO), Burma/Myanmar
  124. The Seagull:Human Rights, Peace & Development, Burma/Myanmar
  125. Women Peace Network (WPN), Burma/Myanmar
  126. Women’s League of Burma (WLB), Burma/Myanmar
  127. White Marker Group, Burma/Myanmar
  128. Yangon Youth Network (YYN), Burma/Myanmar
  129. Youth Corner (YC Hakha), Burma/Myanmar
  130. ရွှေခြံမြေကွန်ရက်၊ ကွမ်းခြံကုန်း ၊ ရန်ကုန်တိုင်းဒေသကြီး၊ Burma/Myanmar
  131. လူအခွင့်အရေးကာကွယ်မြှင့်တင်ရေးကွန်ရက်၊ ချောက်မြို့နယ်၊ မကွေးတိုင်းဒေသကြီး၊ Burma/Myanmar
  132. အလုပ်သမားအဖွဲ့ဖွဲ့စည်းပေါ်ပေါက်ရေးနှင့် အမျိုးသမီးအခွင့်အရေးအသိပညာပေးရေး ပဲခူးကွန်ရက်၊ ပဲခူးတိုင်းဒေသကြီး၊ Burma/Myanmar
  133. တောင်သူလယ်သမားများနှင့် ရေလုပ်သားများ အကျိုးစီးပွားကာကွယ်စောင့်ရှောက်ရေး ကွန်ရက်၊မြစ်ကျိုးတိုက်နယ်၊ ပဲခူးတိုင်းဒေသကြီး၊ Burma/Myanmar
  134. ဥသျှစ်ပင် လူငယ်ကွန်ရက်၊ ဥသျှစ်ပင်မြို့နယ်၊ ပန်းတောင်းမြို့နယ်၊ ပဲခူးတိုင်းဒေသကြီး၊ Burma/Myanmar
  135. တောင်သူလယ်သမားများဥပဒေအထောက်အကူပြု ကွန်ရက် (PLAN-A) ၊ မြောက်ဦးမြို့နယ်၊ ရခိုင်ပြည်နယ်၊ Burma/Myanmar
  136. မွန်လူငယ်ကွန်ရက်၊ ရေးလမိုင်း၊ မွန်ပြည်နယ်၊ Burma/Myanmar
  137. လူမူဖွံ့ဖြိုးရေးနှင့် ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေးကွန်ရက်၊ ပေါင်မြို့နယ်၊ မွန်ပြည်နယ်၊ Burma/Myanmar
  138. Ramkhye – ရမ်းခေး မြစ်ကြီးနား ကွန်ရက်၊ မြစ်ကြီးနား၊ ကချင်ပြည်နယ်၊ Burma/Myanmar
  139. Justice Drum ကွန်ရက်၊ ရှမ်းပြည်နယ်တောင်ပိုင်း၊ Burma/Myanmar
  140. ရပ်ရွာငြိမ်းချမ်းရေးနှင့်ဖွံ့ဖြိုးရေးရှေ့ဆောင်အဖွဲ့ (Area Peace and Development Forward) ကလေး မြို့နယ်၊ ကလေး ခရိုင်၊ စစ်ကိုင်းတိုင်း၊ Burma/Myanma
  141. ဒို့လယ်ယာ ကွန်ရက်၊ အင်္ဂပူမြို့နယ်၊ ဟင်္သာတခရိုင်၊ ဧရာဝတီတိုင်းဒေသကြီး၊ Burma/Myanmar

Individual:

1. Jim Gomez

Download this joint statement pdf in English.

Download this joint statement pdf in Burmese.

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