By Network Media Group
Friday, May 29 2020
Rights groups are calling on Burma’s Human Rights Commission to break its silence about many cases of abuse against civilians during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Twenty-two groups released a joint statement this Wednesday urging the commission to investigate human rights abuses occurring around the country.
Aung Myo Min, director of Equality Myanmar, told NMG there were instances where there were “misuses of power” and restrictions to protect people during the pandemic were “more excessive than what’s necessary.”
“We like to see the Human Rights Commission take action against human rights abuses without waiting for the victims to lodge complaints.” During the coronavirus pandemic, it’s not a normal time and the commission needs to actively respond to prevent injustice before it happens, he said.
Recently, the Burma Army admitted to torturing a group of detained Rakhine civilians when soldiers were transporting them to Sittwe by boat. But the commission said nothing about it, Aung Myo Min said. The incident came to light after mobile video footage of the ordeal was widely shared on the internet.
Ko Aung Zaw Oo, of the Myanmar Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Association, said “human rights abuses often occur in ethnic areas” in the country. “Some civilians are trapped in clashes between the Burma Army and EAOs (ethnic armed organisations). Others are tortured, beaten and killed. Some have to flee their villages because of war.” He suggested that the commission lobby the government when abuses occur.
Aung Myo Min wants it to establish guidelines for government security forces that are enforcing restrictions during the pandemic to prevent abuses of power. He said, the commission “needs to advise about the do’s and don’ts related to human rights matters.” It also has to maintain international standards, report to the government when abuses occur in ethnic communities and always stand up for human rights.
The joint statement mentioned the tragic death of Pyae Sone Win Maung, 28, who was shot late April in western Rakhine State while transporting tissue samples in a World Health Organization vehicle. It also highlighted several incidents in which Tatmadaw blocked COVID-19 prevention activities by the Karen National Union and Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army. And it called for internet services suspended in eight townships in Rakhine State and Chin State to be reinstated because access to information is a human right. The statement also asked the commission to lobby the government to give presidential pardons for political prisoners.