Promises Made, Promises Kept – Peace for All Myanmar

For peace to be possible, conflict must be halted and human rights norms need to be upheld, including the rights to freedom of assembly and expression.

Last week, a spate of separate attacks by the Myanmar military against ethnic communities in Rakhine and Shan States further fortifies the failure of the peace process in Myanmar. These latest attacks by the Myanmar military are a continuation of their brutal and unrelenting persecution of ethnic and religious minorities, which the Myanmar government is unwilling and unable to prevent or curtail. Adding to these concerns is the effects of COVID-19, especially on those now displaced by the conflict and the implications of these recent attacks on ability to conduct safe, free and fair elections on 8 November.

In ethnic regions, in spite of extension of its declaration of a unilateral ceasefire until the end of the month, Myanmar military has continued its military activities and human rights violations. In northern Shan State more than 700 people have been displaced from their homes when fighting broke out between the Myanmar military and the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS). Fighting remains active near Hkant Hkae village tract. Many have sought refuge at a nearby monastery, where conditions are cramped and food is in short supply. This incident comes after the torturing of three villagers in Mong Kung in late September in southern Shan State by the Myanmar military, who accused the villagers of being RCSS/Shan State Army spies. Lung Kadika, Sai Nwe and Sai Neminda from Long Jarm Village were blindfolded, beaten and kicked repeatedly in this incident and still the perpetrators have not been held to account.

For Rohingya in Rakhine State, the dire humanitarian situation and the 15% statewide infection rate of COVID-19 has been compounded by continued conflict between the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar military. Five Rohingya villagers were killed in two separate shooting incidents last week. In one incident outside Buthidaung Township, the Myanmar military used 15 adult and child Rohingyas as porters to shield them through terrain covered in landmines by the AA. The group was then ambushed by AA with two civilians being killed and one being injured and taken to hospital during an exchange of gunfire. Such instances of children being caught in conflict is commonplace according to ND-Burma, which estimates that at least 90 children have died in Rakhine and Chin States in the first half of this year, a conservative estimate given the difficulty in documenting the true breadth of these violations. In Minbya Township, the Myanmar military soldiers shot dead three Rohingya men, Nu Mahmad, Noru Salam and Mar Dawlar from a bridge above where the trio were sailing in their boat.

In response to instances of conflict in Rakhine State before the aforementioned incidents, 77 civil society organizations have called for an unconditional ceasefire and immediate release of the students arrested for protesting the conflict. For peace to be possible, conflict must be halted and human rights norms need to be upheld, including the rights to freedom of assembly and expression. As the elections draw closer, the space for freedom of expression is shrinking further, while online hate speech directed at Rohingya and other ethnic and religious minorities and human rights activists, fake news and disinformation campaigns are increasing. The government issued its third directive to block yet another website, this time a site that is critical of the State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. This comes after a string of sites being blocked, including Justice For Myanmar after it exposed corruption linked to the Myanmar military. In response to the latest incident, Free Expression Myanmar Director Yadanar Thein states, “Everybody has a different opinion on the government’s performance. Once you start blocking the critical opinions, democracy ends.”

Meanwhile, Facebook has taken action to remove posts containing anti-Rohingya disinformation and hate speech from a webpage called Radio Free Myanmar, not to be confused with independent media corporation, Radio Free Asia. According to Frontier Myanmar, pro-military aligned actors and the Union Solidarity and Development Party are at the center of the disinformation campaign aimed at smearing the NLD party and fueling anti-Rohingya sentiments. Real strides need to be taken by the Myanmar government to combat hate speech, while simultaneously protecting freedom of expression. Currently, this balance has not been struck, leaving many unable to freely express their opinions and others persecuted based upon their ethnic and religious identity.

There is an urgent need for a genuine and meaningful nationwide ceasefire and a complete end to the targeting of civilians, especially Rohingya, women and children, which amounts to a serious violation of international law. Above all, Myanmar’s 2008 constitution must be amended to reign the military under civilian control. The international community must help Myanmar to achieve a genuine federal democracy by making concerted efforts and utilizing tools at its disposal to effectuate substantive human rights protections. They must support international criminal accountability measures, such as by joining Maldives, Canada and Netherlands in support of The Gambia in the International Court of Justice case against Myanmar for breaches of the Genocide Convention. Most importantly, the international community must call on the UN Security Council to execute its authority to refer Myanmar to the ICC or establish an ad hoc tribunal to investigate grave human rights violations, war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Furthermore, international businesses must cut ties with the enterprises of the Myanmar military to stop the flow of funds into the Myanmar military’s coffers, thereby bringing an end to their genocidal campaign against the Rohingya and human rights violations against other ethnic and religious minority communities. Above all, the current on-the-ground situation for civilians, especially in Rakhine and Shan States, is at a breaking point and urgent humanitarian assistance is perilously needed. The international community must apply concerted pressure on the Myanmar government to ensure unhindered access for humanitarian aid and make genuine efforts for long lasting and robust peace for all peoples in Myanmar. Such peace requires full recognition of the equal rights of ethnic and religious minorities, under the long promised democratic federal union.

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[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

actions

Statements and Press Releases

Myanmar Must Tackle Hate Speech Ahead of 2020 General Elections

By 19 Organizations

မြန်မာနိုင်ငံအနေဖြင့် အမုန်းစကားများကို ၂၀၂၀ အထွေထွေရွေးကောက်ပွဲ မတိုင်မီတွင် ကိုင်တွယ်ရမည်

By 19 Organizations

Shipping Giant Maersk to Stop Using Military Ports in Burma

By Burma Campaign UK

Government blocks website critical of NLD and State Counsellor — NLD နှင့် နိုင်ငံတော်အတိုင်ပင်ခံပုဂ္ဂိုလ်ကို ဝေဖန်သည့် ဝက်(ဘ်)ဆိုက်စာမျက်နှာများကို အစိုးရက ပိတ်ပစ်ရန် အမိန့်ပေး

By Free Expression Myanmar

UEC and State-controlled broadcasting undermine elections — ရွေးကောက်ပွဲကို ယုတ်လျော့စေသည့် ရွေးကောက်ပွဲကော်မရှင်နှင့် နိုင်ငံပိုင် ရုပ်သံထုတ်လွှင့်ရေးကဏ္ဍ

By Free Expression Myanmar

HURFOM releases report on electoral challenges facing marginalized communities

By Human Rights Foundation of Monland

မွန်ပြည်လူ့အခွင့်အရေးဖောင်ဒေးရှင်း HURFOM – အစီရင်ခံစာ ထုတ်ပြန်ခြင်း

By Human Rights Foundation of Monland

Election Fundamentally Flawed: Rohingya Excluded, Unequal Media Access, Arrests of Critics

By Human Rights Watch

Mass Detention of Rohingya in Squalid Camps: Camp ‘Closures’ Entrench Confinement, Persecution

By Human Rights Watch

Three Villagers Tortured by Burma Army on Suspicion of Being RCSS/SSA “Spies” in Mong Kung, Southern Shan State

By Shan Human Rights Foundation

မိုင်းကိုင်မြို့နယ် ရှမ်း/တောင်တွင် ရွာသား ၃-ယောက်RCSS/SSA ထောက်လှန်းရေး အဖြစ်စွပ်စွဲကာ အစိုးရတပ်သားများက ညှဥ်းပမ်းနှိပ်စက်

By Shan Human Rights Foundation

USCIRF Releases Factsheet on Rohingya Refugees in Southeast Asia

By United States Commission on International Religious Freedom

reports

Reports

Hate Speech Ignited: Understanding Hate Speech in Myanmar

By 19 Organizations

တောက်လောင်နေသော အမုန်းစကားများ – မြန်မာနိုင်ငံရှိ အမုန်းစကားများကို လေ့လာခြင်း

By 19 Organizations

ဖယ်ကြဉ်မရှိမှ လွတ်မျှတ – မြန်မာနိုင်ငံတောင်ပိုင်းရှိ ကျေးလက်နေပြည်သူများ၊ အခြားနည်းဖြင့်သန်စွမ်းသူများ၊ ပထမဆုံးမဲပေး မည့်လူငယ်နင့် တိုင်းရင်းသားလက်နက်ကိုင်အဖွဲ့အစည်းများလက်အောက်ရှိ ဒေသခံပြည်သူများ၏ ရွေးကောက်ပွဲဆိုင်ရာ အခက်အခဲနှင့် စိန်ခေါ်မှုများ

By Human Rights Foundation of Monland

An Open Prison without End – Myanmar’s Mass Detention of Rohingya in Rakhine State

By Human Rights Watch

Factsheet on Rohingya Refugees in Southeast Asia

By United States Commission on International Religious Freedom


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.”

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