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Myanmar Military’s War Crimes in Kawthoolei: Loss of Lives and Livelihoods after the Coup of 2021

March 27th, 2023  •  Author:   Karen National Union  •  3 minute read
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Executive Summary

The unlawful seizure of power from the elected civilian government by the Myanmar military—under the leadership of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing—on the 1st of February 2021 was nothing but a clear act of taking the country back into the dark ages. The act also very much repeats what the previous dictator General Ne Win—who claimed himself to be the father of the country—did in 1962. With a similarly stated mission to “rebuild the nation”, the State Administration Council (SAC) led by Min Aung Hlaing announced the establishment of a care-taker government on the 1st of August 2021, with the Senior General appointing himself as the country’s
Prime Minister. However, the junta’s subsequent military operations tar
geting civilians in Southeast Myanmar have proven to be the opposite of what the care-taker government had supposedly set out to do. The Karen National Union (KNU) has been closely monitoring and documenting the activities of the Myanmar military across its seven districts. After a careful examination of all the oppressive and brutal actions of the Myanmar military against the opposition movements rejecting their attempted coup, we conclude that the military junta has not only failed to abide by the military’s code of conduct but also categorically committed massive human rights violations. Consequently, the KNU has been accommodating and providing shelter to thousands of civilians from all walks of life, most notably civil servants that had joined the civil disobedient movement (CDM) and reached the KNU’s controlled areas, trying to escape the brutal oppression and widespread human rights violations of the Myanmar military.

The KNU is standing firm on its stated belief that the only way to overcome chauvinism and all forms of authoritarianism—including military dictatorship—in a socially and religiously diverse country such as Myanmar and build a long-lasting peace is by establishing a federal democratic union where democratic principles are not only proclaimed but also practiced.

The KNU Human Rights Committee, established by the 16th Congress of the Karen National Union in 2017, has been documenting cases of human rights violations committed by the SAC since the coup in close collaboration with respective KNU district officials and local people on the ground. This report is based on the evidence collected through the committee’s joint efforts with respective district and township leaders, carrying out extensive interviews with local residents impacted by human rights violations, complemented by daily updates and telegrams from the Karen National Liberation Army-Headquarters (KNLA-HQ). During October and November 2022, KNU’s in-house technical advisors and external experts also provided support to ensure the data featured in the current report is credible and accurate. In this report, we cover human rights violations committed by the troops of the Myanmar military—or the so-called SAC—since from the beginning of the attempted coup until December 2022 with the aim to inform the wider audience on how the rights of innocent civilians have been brutally violated.


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