U Win Myint
Republic of the Union of Myanmar
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
Chairperson of the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre
Republic of the Union of Myanmar
20 January 2021
Subject: Open letter from civil society organizations concerning the current tensions and conflicts and the situation of local people affected by war in ceasefire area in Karen State in Southeastern Myanmar
Dear President U Win Myint, and State Counsellor and Chairperson of the National Reconciliation and Peace Centre Daw Aung San Suu Kyi,
In relation to the above mentioned matter, we, the undersigned (172) civil society organizations and networks, are gravely concerned and would like to sincerely request you to immediately take action and resolve the tensions and conflicts between the Myanmar Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) under the control of the Karen National Union (KNU). The increasing armed engagements between the two armed actors have displaced almost 4,000 people who have been forced to flee their homes and taking shelter in adjacent areas in Hpapun, Thaton and Nyaunglaypin Districts during this challenging time of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In December 2020, we learned that the Myanmar Tatmadaw ignored the provisions contained within the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) and began to expand the presence of its troops in Hpapun District and other areas designated under the KNU’s control, creating tension between the Myanmar Tatmadaw and the KNU, resulting in armed clashes breaking out between the Mae Wei based Myanmar Tatmadaw troops and a battalion of KNLA troops (under KNU control), since 1 December. Over 3,000 civilians have had to flee to avoid the fighting in Hpapun District as the Myanmar Tatmadaw troops shelled in areas where villagers were working for their livelihoods, including inside and outside villages. In addition, on 12 January 2021, the Infantry Battalion 404 of the Myanmar Tatmadaw shelled Mae Cho Village Tract in Hpapun District killing a 35-year-old village chief. Furthermore, on 15 January, an 11-year-old boy was seriously injured as the Light Infantry Battalion 339 of the Myanmar Tatmadaw intentionally continued its artillery shelling of Mae Wei Village in Hpapun District. The boy is now receiving medical treatment. We call on the government to bring justice for those who have suffered casualties and to ensure that such incidents do not take place again.
At present, we have learned that the tensions between the two groups are rising, leading to deterioration of trust. We believe that an end to tensions and fighting between the two sides is difficult, particularly if the Myanmar Tatmadaw continues its military movements in KNU designated areas in contravention of the NCA.
In addition, 790 villagers from four villages in Nyaunglaypin District have had to flee to avoid the ongoing fighting between the KNU troops and the Myanmar Tatmadaw since 28 December 2020, as the Myanmar Tatmadaw entered into KNU designated territories. On 19 January, a 41-year-old man was injured by the artillery shelling of the Light Infantry Battalion 603 of the Myanmar Tatmadaw in Pae Kaw Hkee Village in Kyaukkyi Township. We have learned that villagers are especially concerned that this will lead to the expansion of armed clashes in the region as the Myanmar Tatmadaw have reinforced their troops in KNU controlled areas in Hpapun and Nyaunglaypin Districts since December 2020. We are particularly concerned of the continued displacement of ethnic people at a time when the country is striving for national reconciliation and long-lasting peace in the pursuit of a genuine federal democratic country.
Upon observing the catalyst for such conflict and tensions between the NCA signatories – an ethnic armed organization, the KNU, and the Myanmar Tatmadaw – we have found that the Myanmar Tatmadaw broke the NCA as they have taken positions and expanded deployment, giving different excuses, including in the name of development projects. Therefore, we call on the government, elected by the people, to look towards national reconciliation and genuine sustainable peace, and to immediately implement the calls made by more than 10,000 villagers from 12 villages in Luthaw Township who protested on 30 December 2020, to stop the Myanmar Tatmadaw from invading the KNU controlled territories and expanding its forces in contravention of the NCA’s agreements, among other calls.
In our country, civil war has been raging for more than 70 years and it is still far from the genuine peace that our people aspire to today. Furthermore, we believe that the Myanmar Tatmadaw’s use of state funds to continue using military force across Myanmar, particularly in ethnic areas is inappropriate and leads us further astray from peace.
In the time of conflict, women and children are the most vulnerable to human rights violations, including sexual violence, and their rights to education and healthcare can be impacted. As Myanmar is a signatory to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Myanmar is obligated to protect the rights of women and children in line with these conventions.
Finally, it is our belief that the armed conflicts in ethnic areas in Myanmar and its root causes are political in nature and must be solved by political means. To solve this political issue via political means, we, the undersigned civil society organizations, would like to respectfully call on the President and State Counsellor to develop political opportunities and means of solution, as well as to withdraw and stop the expanding deployment and occupation of the Myanmar Tatmadaw in ethnic areas.
162. Women’s Organizations Network
163. Yangon Watch
164. Zinlum Committee (Tanphaye)
165. Zomi Students and Youth Organization
166. Summer Shelter Library
167. Kanbawza youth library
168. Enlightened Myanmar Research Foundation
169. Kayah Baptist Association – Christian Social Service and Development Department
170. Women for Women Foundation
172. Kawyaw National Youth Organization