Justice Newsletter (November 2020)

Summary Overview

Burma’s 2020 general election results were announced this month with the National League for Democracy (NLD) securing a second-term landslide victory by winning 396 of the 498 contested seats in the bicameral parliament. The NLD won more seats in the 2020 election than it did in 2015, when they first ousted the military ruling government. The main opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has contested the results, including filing over 1000 election complaints, and sending an open letter calling on the President to hold the Union Election Commission (UEC) accountable for allegedly violating the 2008 Constitution by ‘failing to perform its duties enshrined by the law,’ citing transparency issues. Nonetheless, the UEC is moving ahead.

Upon news of their victory, the NLD and military made swift steps towards reigniting the long delayed peace process. Before the NLD won the election, the military had revealed a permanent committee to, ‘continue peace talks as quickly as possible.’ The peace process started in 2011 but has made slow progress over the last several years. The most recent Union Panglong Conference was held in August 2020.

The NLD also reached out to 48 ethnic political parties to seek a federal union and an end to the civil war.  According to the Irrawaddy, this move by the NLD is the first of its kind. In response to the NLD’s request to ethnic parties to work together towards a ‘national unity government,’ Nai Tala Non, Chair of the Mon Unity Party said the invitation is a good thing, stating: “I would like to say that the way the NLD government has dealt with ethnic issues in our country in the past is completely wrong. If we continue like this, civil war will expand, and the fighting will become more intense. That’s why we have to change the format.” The Kayah State Democratic Party said they would only join if there is a ‘clear and firm agreement on ethnic issues.’ At this point, most ethnic parties and armed groups are appearing to warm to the NLD victory and are open to negotiations to the country’s long running internal conflicts.

The 2020 pre-election campaign period was met with serious debate from ethnic political parties and candidates who claimed with evidence that they had experienced discrimination and censorship.

Positively, the number of female lawmakers increased during the 2020 election. Women accounted for 17% of lawmakers and ethnic affairs ministers, a rise from 2015.

Reactions to the 2020 Election by State:


Rakhine State

The Arakan Army has called for a by-election in parts of Rakhine State that were denied the right to vote through a nationwide ceasefire between the Burma Army and NLD, saying it would be a show of ‘goodwill’ as the sentiment from many ethnic people and parties was suppression of democratic rights in areas where voting was cancelled:

“The failure to hold elections in most townships in Rakhine state has resulted in the loss of the right to vote and the loss of elected representatives who can represent the voice of the people,” said the statement from the AA and its political wing, the United League of Arakan (ULA).”

 In a rare step of agreement, the army welcomed this statement.


Karen State

General Secretary of the Karen National Union, Saw Tah Doh Moo said the following in the Myanmar Times regarding the 2020 election result:

“The reports of voter fraud will need to be investigated and solved by following procedures. Until these reports are proven, we must recognise and respect the people’s choice. There are cases of voter fraud in all elections to some extent. If the election is not fair, it should be resolved through the proper channel along with verified documents. The extent of which the election is transparent, free and fair will depend on observer assessments.”


Mon State

The Mon Unity Party (MUP) expressed concerns with the electoral results in some constituencies in Mon State.  In an effort to investigate, they requested specific information from a select number of Township Election Sub-commissions, but their requests have been denied.

The Commissions must give Form #1 to every candidate who contested the election. But now they gave nothing.  Even when we, the political party, have requested this information. So, we’re having doubts [about election integrity],” said the Joint Secretary of the MUP Election Campaign Committee.


Shan State

The death of a newly elected Member of Parliament who was elected in Kyaukme township to the National League for Democracy was shot and killed by an unidentified suspect fueling speculation that the murder was due to the election results. There have been concerns expressed that post-election violence may rise because ‘people are disappointed with the poll results.’ The news of the death was condemned by Burma’s political parties.

Less than two weeks after the general election, fighting has continued to escalate in northern Shan state. According to Burma News International, negotiations for a bilateral ceasefire agreement with the Northern Alliance – KIA, TNLA, AA and MNDAA – were under way before the pandemic began, but no agreement was reached. All negotiations have since ceased.

Chin State

ND-Burma member, the Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) blamed the government for the fact that many people in southern Chin State couldn’t participate in the recent national election in Burma, stating: “because only 20 percent of Paletwa Township could vote, it demonstrates the weakness of the government, which was unable to uphold the rights of the people.”


Rakhine State

Children Injured in Artillery Strike | 12 November 2020

Six people, including two children, were injured when artillery shells struck Shaukkon village under  Ann township in Rakhine State.

Villagers Flee Villages Fearing Arrest | 13 November 2020

Over 500 civilians fled from their villages in Rakhine State as the Burma Army raided villages and arrested local people. Out of fear, many left and are now taking shelter in monasteries until the situation stabilises.

Rakhine Man Arrested & Beaten in Detention | 17 November 2020

The son of a man detained overnight by the Burma Army is disappointed by the lack of justice after  the Ann township resident was severely beaten. Despite doctors confirming a recovery, the family is justifiably saddened by the innocent man being beaten and arrested. 

Toddler, Family Killed in Landmine Explosion | 18 November 2020

The force of a landmine explosion in Maungdaw township killed an 18 month old child and his parents after the minivan struck a landmine. Six others were injured by the impact. The use of landmines during the civil war has led to mounting civilian deaths and injuries. At least 36 people have died and 75 have been injured by landmine explosions in Rakhine since the conflict started there in 2018, according to Rakhine Ethnic Congress.

IDPs remain worried about the dangers of landmines, despite most returning home. Their fears are reinforced by finding leftover artillery shells in the paddy fields – which has discouraged workers. According to Radio Free Asia, fighting between the Burma Army and the Arakan Army has killed 308 civilians and displaced nearly 226,000.

Families of 18 Missing Villagers File Complaints | 30 November 2020

The families of 18 missing villagers from Kyauktaw township have filed complaints against the Burma Army after their loved ones went missing following their arrest and detainment.  “Are they alive? I have no idea,” said the wife of one of the disappeared.


Chin State

Calls for Winter Clothing for Chin IDPs | 18 November 2020

As the cold season approaches, IDPs in Paletwa township are in urgent need of winter clothing, blankets where there are more than 10,000 IDPs from 2000 families. There are more than 4,800 IDPs staying in Paletwa town, 3,300 in the town of Sami, more than 500 in Meezar village, and more than 200 in Seint Sin village. They were displaced by clashes between the Burma Army and the Arakan Army in Paletwa Township.

Calls for Justice for Rapist Who Violated Visually Impaired IDP | 24 November 2020

Civil society organisations are calling for the prosecution of a rapist who assaulted a 23 year old visually impaired IDP in Sami IDP camp on 17 November. The perpetrator has been placed under arrest and transferred to Paletwa.


Shan State

CSO Leader Shot in Namkham | 6 November 2020

A civil society leader in northern Shan was shot by an unidentified gunman. Shootings are common in Shan, with the perpetrators rarely being apprehended as activists question the rule of law. Human rights defenders must be protected, especially during periods of instability.

Villagers Forced to Flee as Conflict Escalates Between TNLA and the Burma Army | 26 November 2020

Nearly 1000 villagers were forced to flee clashes between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Burma Army as sheltering takes place in monasteries, churches and community halls with relatives.


Updates from ND-Burma member, the Ta’ang Students and Youths Union:

Four Villagers Arrested and Interrogated by KIA soldiers in Momeik

Four villagers from Yepon village, Momeik Township, Northern Shan State were arbitrarily arrested and interrogated without reason by 34 soldiers of the KIA battalion.  According to the village administrator, the four villagers met KIA soldiers on the way back from Moemeik’s Market, then were arrested and beaten. Mai Kyaw Aye was seriously injured and still has pain on his nose.

The victims were identified as Mai Kyaw Aye (27), Mai Tun Sein (24), Mai Aik Wong (24) a resident of Pansay, and Mai Aik Wong (22) a resident of Macaw. KIA soldiers are constantly interrogating anyone returning from the Momeik market. The village administrator reported the incident to the KIA township chief, but no response has been received.

Family Members Tried for the Release of Two Detainees Twice | 20 November 2020

The families of Mai Ohn Kyaw (43) and U Aung Kyaw Oo (32), who have been detained at Tat Kone, Namhsam Township, have been tried twice for calling for their release. On October 22, 2020, Burmese soldiers from the Namhsan-based Army and the son of Pyithusit member’s Tun Myat Lay arrested Mai Ohn Kyaw and U Aung Kyaw Oo in Zayangyi ward, Namhsam Township at 8:00 pm without any reason.

According to families, they are accused of having ties with TNLA but found no evidence against them. Since then they had been detained at Tat Kone.


Freedom of Expression

Reporters Without Borders Condemns Election Censorship | 4 November 2020

Reporters Without Borders condemned press freedom violations that marked the campaign for the parliamentary elections that took place this month. Increased censorship only cast more doubts on the campaign process.

Despite pledges to uphold and protect spaces for media and information by the National League for Democracy in the 2015 manifesto, the party has removed such commitments from their platform – a worrying sign as the NLD enters another 5-year term.

Court Sentences Two Anti-War Student Protesters | 19 November 2020

Kyaw Ye Thu, president of the Student Union of Pyay University, and Htet Aung, vice president of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABSFU), were convicted under Section 505(b) of Burma Penal Code and immediately sent to jail. The Bago region residents had led protests against the two-year war in Rakhine state.


Member Update

ND-Burma released a short briefing paper, Dismissed & Denied: Civic Rights Undermined In the 2020 Pre-Election Landscape. Our research indicates the campaign period showed a disregard of political rights by election stakeholders. Download from our website in English and Burmese.

ND-Burma member the Human Rights Foundation of Monland and ND-Burma Advocacy Manager penned a joint editorial in The Diplomat for International Children’s Day calling for greater protection of young sexual violence survivors in Burma. Human Rights Watch also made calls on International Children’s Day to the Burma Army to stop using child soldiers.

Affiliate member, Progressive Voice, released a post-election briefing paper on the response by the Burma Army to the victory of the National League for Democracy.

ND-Burma member, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners demanded the release of 36 students arrested for protesting against the civil war in Rakhine and Chin states.

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