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Under Whose Command? – Human rights abuses under Myanmar’s military rule

November 1st, 2023  •  Author:   Security Force Monitor  •  3 minute read

For the first time, extensive research has mapped the Myanmar Army’s entire Chain of Command. The research details the hierarchy and control exercised by senior commanders over hundreds of units throughout a twelve year period. We now know the entire chain of command and can identify who was in command when each alleged human rights abuse occurred between 30 March 2011 and 30 March 2023.

Proving individual responsibility for war crimes and crimes against humanity is a complex task. This is especially true in Myanmar, where secrecy around the army’s structure has long hampered efforts for accountability.

Since 2011 more than 60% of the senior commanders of the Myanmar Army have had disappearances, killings, rape or torture allegedly committed by units under their command.

A decade of worsening human rights abuses

On 30 March 2011, Min Aung Hlaing became Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Myanmar, otherwise known as the Tatmadaw. The Myanmar Army is by far its largest and most powerful branch of the armed forces. Since Min Aung Hlaing took command of the military, the United Nations, human rights groups and others have accused the Myanmar Army of committing genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes across the country.

During the same period, Myanmar initially appeared to be on a path towards greater democracy and civic participation. That ended in February 2021. Led by Min Aung Hlaing, the army ousted the democratically-elected government, headed by the National League for Democracy party, in a coup d’état. Civilian protest was met with a wave of violence unleashed by the armed forces. Today, the army is accused of continuing to enact a brutal crackdown including arbitrary arrest, torture, enforced disappearances and mass killings.

The Security Force Monitor (SFM) is a project of the Columbia Law Human Rights Institute. Our new research lays bare the Chain of Command of the Myanmar Army and reveals how allegations against soldiers from low level units can be linked to senior army commanders.

Since 2011 more than 60% of the senior commanders of the Myanmar Army have had disappearances, killings, rape or torture allegedly committed by units under their command.

This research shines new light on the control exercised by senior army commanders over the conduct of individual army units. We hope it can be used to support efforts to deliver accountability for alleged crimes against humanity, war crimes committed by the Myanmar Army, and justice for those that have suffered at their hands.


Read the full report: English I Burmese