Justice Newsletter (August 2020)

August Justice Newsletter

Summary Report

The Union Panglong Conference Took Place Against the Backdrop of Mounting Human Rights Violations as COVID-19 Cases Surge 

This month, the government hosted the fourth Union Panglong Conference (UPC) amid the lead up to the 2020 national election. However, against the backdrop of the political dialogue human rights violations continued to take place across Burma. For civilians living in conflict-torn Rakhine, the Internet shutdown has compromised their safety further with the spike in COVID-19 cases. Local transmissions of COVID-19 are now nearly 500.

In Karen state, calls for justice were amplified by Karen civil-society organizations in their continued appeals for accountability in the death of Naw Mu Naw who was killed at point blank range by two Burma Army soldiers last month. Freedom of expression suffered more blows as renowned activist Maung Saungkha was charged by the authorities for ‘unlawful’ protests when he demanded an end to the Internet shutdown.

As the political parties tout new commitments and promises, it appears to be ‘business as usual’ with an ongoing cycle of blame for the problems in the country. The lack of accountability was made evident at UPC as well when the Commander-in-Chief of the Burma Army, Min Aung Hlaing blamed ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) for the failure of the peace process. Prior to UPC, he remarked the “peace is the most important thing for the country, and I really desire it. However, peace cannot be implemented unilaterally. It needs all-inclusiveness.” Nonetheless, the Burma Army extended their unilateral ceasefire till the end of September but excluded the Arakan Army.

There is also concern over the lack of transparency with Burma’s Union Election Commission (UEC) rejecting the People’s Alliance for Credible Election’s (PACE) application to observe the upcoming elections. Civil society organizations reacted to the decision in a joint statement. Further, a call by Human Rights Watch advising Burma’s election body to revise broadcasting restrictions has been supported by several political parties who need permission by the UEC for televised speeches on TV and radio.

The anniversary of 8-8-88 was also solemnly observed this month. In a poignant piece in Frontier Myanmar, the reflection on the historical significance noted, “One of the lessons from 1988, and it is a cliché, is that a country that doesn’t learn from its history is condemned to repeat it.”

 Rakhine State

Police Shooting Leads to Death, Injury | 3 August 2020

Unrest in Rakhine is unraveling as another civilian is injured in a police shooting, and a Rohingya man is killed. Authorities denied shooting the two men.

Man Killed in Burma Army Custody | 12 August 2020

A Rakhine man died in the custody of the Burma Army. The military’s denial and lack of comments on the deaths in detainment speak volumes. Twenty civilians have died during interrogation by the Burma Army in conflict-torn townships in Rakhine.

 Woman Wounded by Artillery Shell Shrapnel | 13 August 2020

A 43-year-old woman was wounded by an artillery shell when it exploded in her home in Kyauktaw, Rakhine. Civilian injuries and casualties continue in the lead up to the Union Panglong Conference amid calls for an inclusive ceasefire and commitment to national reconciliation.

Three Injured by Artillery Firing | 15 August 202
Three people were wounded by artillery firing after it exploded in a local village. Three homes in the village were also destroyed in the explosion. It was not made clear who was responsible for the attack.

Conflict Undermines Delivery of Life-saving materials | 18 August 2020
Fighting in Rakhine state is limiting the delivery of medicine as conflict takes place along transport routes. Supplies end up being damaged in transport. Civilians deserve to not have their health compromised, among other things, by ongoing clashes.
Civilians Increasingly Detained by the Burma Army | 19 August 2020

The Burma Army has carried out a series of arrests against civilians in Rakhine state where villagers are taken away to unknown locations. Those arbitrarily detained and arrested have no contact with their families and are often charged with unfounded claims.
Monks Abducted by the Arakan Army | 21 August 2020
Two monks and two novices have been abducted by the Arakan Army from monasteries in Rakhine state. This is the first-time monks have been taken by the Arakan Army, said the abbot of the same monastery.

Clashes Delay IDP return to Villages in Rathedaung | 21 August 2020

For IDPs living in conflict torn Rakhine, IDPs who fled at the end of June have not been able to return home. According to the Rakhine Ethnics Congress, the Burma Army and the Arakan Army remain in a standoff near Kyauktan, stating: “Even though the Burma Army said it wouldn’t launch a military clearance operation in the area, it’s completely unsafe for residents.” According to local civil society organizations that are helping IDPs, there are more than 40,000 displaced in Rathedaung

Two Villagers Injured by Gunfire | 22 August 2020

Civilians traveling by boat in Ann township, Rakhine state were shot at when they were attempting to deliver materials to a camp for internally displaced persons.

Villagers Struck by Artillery Fire | 22 August 2020

Five villagers – including a three year old – were injured the day after the Union Panglong Conference when artillery shells exploded in Rathedaung township. Civilian casualties are mounting against backdrop of rising COVID-19 cases were the need for a clear emergency response is desperately required

Artillery Strike Kills Two, Injures Three in Separate Incidents | 31 August 2020
An artillery strike has killed a man and woman, and injured three other women in two separate incidents.  Civilian injuries and deaths are mounting – as a COVID19 outbreak ravages Rakhine state.

Rakhine Lawmaker Rejected as Son Joins Arakan Army | 31 August 2020

A sitting Rakhine lawmaker’s application to run for re-election in the upcoming November election was rejected because his son left the Burma Army to fight for the Arakan Army. The ruling has been deemed unreasonable by the supporters of the lawmaker.

 Chin State

Food Shortages Hurt IDP Livelihoods | 12 August 2020

A shortage of food in Paletwa state is the result of ongoing blocks of transportation routes between Rakhine and Chin states. IDPs were supported with rice rations from INGOs but locals in the town are also in need. Nearly 8500 in families cannot afford rice.

Chin Teenager Killed by Landmine | 8 August 2020

A 17 year old Chin woman who was looking for bamboo shoots in the jungle was killed when a landmine detonated. The Burma Government must take seriously calls to strengthen de-mining legislation as another innocent civilian is killed. 

Shan State
Civilians Frustrated by Escalating Conflict in northern Shan | 10 August 2020
The killing of a Shan farmer sparked local protests at the end of June after years of ‘keeping it inside.’ A report by Frontier Myanmar looked at how civilians are responding to the tactics of the Burma Army who continue to deny and dismiss the human rights violations they are guilty of committing.

Locals Reject Plans by Kesi township Land Management | 12 August 2020

Residents living in Kesi township are prepared to refute plans to seize over 1000 acres of land and allocate it for use by companies as long as there is no opposition from the locals in the area. Headman of Pan Saet village tract said, “If we don’t have farmland, how can villagers grow their crops? We do not agree with it.”

Ta’ang Villagers, CSOs Appeal for Answers in Disappearance of Loved Ones | 25 August 2020

Ta’ang CSOs and the relatives of three villagers who went missing after being detained by the Burma Army are demanding answers after their bodies were found in northern Shan state. Accountability from the Burma Army is being evaded as they deny any involvement. CSOs including ND-Burma members, TSYU, HURFOM, KWAT, TWO, Progressive Voice, TWU and PYO joined a statement calling for justice.

Burma Army Acknowledges Shooting Civilian | 26 August 2020

In a rare case of admission, the Burma Army acknowledged shooting and killing a civilian in northern Shan state in June. The death prompted an overwhelming local response demanding justice. However, RFA reports the ‘military has not issued a statement on the incident.’

Human Rights Violations Updates by ND-Burma member, the Ta’ang Students and Youths Union:

KIA Arrests Young Ta’ang Girl
At the end of July, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) arrested Lway Ei, a 16-year-old girl who lives in Nar Khaing village, Youne Maw village tract, Kutkai Township, Muse district and Northern Shan State.

The head of villagers said that “her father, who is U Aik Maung is a soldier and he had escaped because he did not want to serve in the KIA. That is why the KIA arrested his daughter. We don’t know where he escaped.”

One of the villagers said that “Lway Ei is very young. She is struggling to find work and has to support her family. They are very poor and she had to go to China to find work.”

The villagers have been negotiating with the KIA but so far there is no reply. The Ta’ang villagers that live in Mone Si village have to pay support and provide rice to the KIA every year. The KIA sent back Lway Ei to her home on 11 August 2020. The KIA said they will call again if needed.

Ta’ang National Liberation Army’s Soldiers Beat a Disabled Person 

On 26 July 2020, two Ta’ang National Liberation Army soldiers who were not wearing a uniform beat U La Shi Pya La San in Karlaing village , Kutkai Township. They beat him on suspicion of using drugs.

The two soldiers and U La Shi Pya La San met at the villagers’ home. After they met, two of the soldiers were going to check U La Shi Pya La San’s house. They found two soap holders, two sets of matches and two papers to burn for drug use. They asked him who is using these things.

U La Shi La Pya La San said, “the soldiers arrived at 11:00 PM but they weren’t wearing uniform and with normal clothes. I asked them what do they need and they did not reply. They only said that they are drunk and then they got angry. They went to my home and searched my brother’s bed room. My brother is using drugs but he wasn’t in the house when they searched his room.”

The two soldiers showed the items being used for drugs. U La Shi Pya La San said he did not know. They accused him of being a drug addict and asked who is using the drugs. Despite his denials, he was beat.

One of the soldiers beat him ten times and also beat his wife once. They kept the things that they found as evidence. After the case was released on social media and online. The two soldiers apologized to the villagers (U La Shi La Pya La San) and provided 30, 000MMK for treatment.

U La Shi La Pya La San also said that, “this case is not justice being served, and I don’t want to be involved any more in the future. If they would like to eliminate drug use, do it without force. Do not arrest and request the money. I wanted them to do it by law.”

On 1 August, the TNLA also released the statement for some of their soldiers who had committed human rights violations when they are implementing the drug issue. In the statement, the TNLA will investigate and punish those who are committing human rights violations and reparation for the survivor/ victims.

After releasing the statement, the TNLA also met with the community in the area and the two soldiers were imprisoned in line with TNLA law.

RCCC/SSA Restricted Ta’ang National Party –TNP’s Candidates to be Elected in Mong Kung township, Southern Shan State

On 20 August 2020, the RCSS/SSA threatened candidates running in the 2020 election in Burma twice. In 2015, the RCSS/SSA also arrested some people related to eligibility.

The Ta’ang National Party (TNP) Township Executive Committee member said, “After we submitted the name list for candidates, the RCSS/SSA Sai Tun Tun told us that we cannot run to be elected in their controlled areas. They said we had to go to Manton and Namhsan Township (Palaung self-autonomy). They said, “If you are trying to be elected in this area, there will be problems in the community.” This order came from top level leadership.

Sai Tun Tun gave a warning to the TNP’s EC once and after five days, he told the villager and communities, “tell your TNP to not run for election in this area.” The RCSS/SSA had arrested a Mong Kong candidate in 2015. They community said they will follow the law, and if the RCSS/SSA does not allow, they will report to the Union Election Commission- UEC.

They also sent a report to UEC saying that, “The RCSS/SSA does not have the authority to tell us not to run. If they do, it is their mistake. This is government’s responsibility to solve this problem and to acknowledge it by the commission.”

On 21 August, the TNP’s EC report to TNP (center). In Namtu Township, Northern Shan State, Ta’ang National Party- TNP’s signposts and slogans also had been destroyed and they do not know who did it.

Karen State

 Calls for Justice for Karen civilian, Naw Mu Naw, who was killed by the Burma Army

Karen civil-society organizations including the Karen Women’s Organization and the Karen Peace Support Network called for transparency in the case of Naw Mu Naw, who was brutally killed by two Burma Army soldiers. Despite the military saying ‘harsh punishment’ would follow – there has been no update on the charges or repercussions they face.

Karen Martyrs’ Day Met with Organizers Detained | 13 August 2020

Three civilians were charged on Karen Martyrs’ Day (12 August) under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law for holding an event to mark the event. The Karen Women’s Organization, the Karen Human Rights Group and the Karen Peace Support Network condemned the charges, calling for respect for ethnic traditions and celebrations.

Kachin State

Civilians Being Double Taxed by Armed Groups | 7 August 2020

Coupled with a population living in a conflict zone and experiencing economic hardship, civilians are being doubled-taxed by the government and the Kachin Independence Army, say locals.

 Freedom of Expression

 Peacock Generation, Thangyat Member Released | 20 August 2020

Suu Yadana Myint, one of the members of the Peacock Generation, was released from Insein prison on 19 August after serving her sentence for a satirical performance mocking the Burma Army.

 Calls for Charges Against Activists to be Dropped | 20 August 2020

Charges against activists for challenging the year-long Internet shutdown must be dropped, said Access Now in denouncing the persecution of Maung Saungkha, a prominent poet and activist.

Organizations Call for Upgraded Internet Service
| 24 August 2020
Mrauk-U Youth Organization is calling on the government to upgrade 4G in Rakhine township. Despite resumed Internet services, 2G is an extremely weak signal and has been deemed ‘unusable.’ Amid the pandemic and the upcoming election, access to information must not be further repressed.  Freedom of expression organization, ATHAN, made similar calls in a statement released.

Former Student Leader Sentenced to Six Months in Prison | 26 August 2020

A former leader of the All Burma Federation of the Student Unions, Ko Lin Htet Naign was sentenced by the Kyauktada township to six months in prison for the possession of a specious ID card during a student strike in 2015. Since the case was part of an amnesty order issued by the state in 2016, the Yangon Region Police Chief’s Office informed the court to withdraw the case. However, the Ministry of Immigration refused to withdraw the case and he was handed six months jail sentence under Section 468 of the Penal Code. (Source: ATHAN)

Activist Charged Under 66(d) for Social Media Posts | 29 August 2020

A social activist from Sittwe had been charged for posts on social media by the Sittwe township administrator for alleging writing false information ‘with the intention to discredit the Rakhine state government.’ He said his home had also been raided by police.

Member Update

The Chin Human Rights Organization released an update sharing that three Chin people were killed, and another seriously injured within the space of a week in Ann township, Rakhine state. CHRO regularly sends information updates. Subscribe here.

 Joint Secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), Ko Bo Gyi, spoke to The Irrawaddy about how citizens should vote in the upcoming election. Among other things, he said “the most important avenue for change is to participate in the process.”

AAPP also released a new report, “Prison Reform with Key Population.”

The Human Rights Foundation of Monland Program Director, Nai Aue Mon, co-authored an editorial in Frontier Myanmar with former ND-Burma Adovacy Manager, Janeen Sawatzky on how the NLD’s COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan is failing IDPs in remote communities of Mon and Kayin states as well as Tanintharyi region.

Sang Hnin Lian from the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) penned an op-ed in Asia Times on the International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances writing: “Parties involved in disputes with one another need to remember that every individual involved in an armed conflict must comply with humanitarian law.” CHRO also shared a press release calling for an end to the practise of civilian abductions and enforced disappearances – specifically in Paletwa township.

The All Arakan Students’ and Youths Congress’ (AASYC) released their monthly news analysis on the situation in Rakhine state including findings and policy recommendations on the war, human rights and the status of vulnerable groups, as well as socio-economic affairs. Read more here. AASYC also released an analysis and recommendation on the handling of COVID-19 in Rakhine from April and July.

ND-Burma is a network that consists of 13-member organisations who represent a range of ethnic nationalities, women and former political prisoners. ND-Burma member organisations have been documenting human rights abuses and fighting for justice for victims since 2004. The network consists of nine Full Members and four Affiliate Members as follows:

Full Members:

  1. All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress 
    2.     Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
    3.     Association Human Rights Defenders and Promoters 
    4.     Future Light Center 
    5.     Human Rights Foundation of Monland
    6.     Kachin Women’s Association – Thailand
    7.     Ta’ang Women’s Organization
    8.     Ta’ang Students and Youth Union
    9.     Tavoyan Women’s Union 

 Affiliate Members:

  1. Chin Human Rights Organization
    2.     East Bago – Former Political Prisoners Network
    3.     Pa-O Youth Organization
    4.     Progressive Voice