By Matthew Wells, Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International
When Ngau Masar watched her husband Le Mei Tah speed off on his motorbike on the morning of 4 December 2016, little did she know she might never see him again.
Two weeks earlier, heavy fighting had prompted the family to flee to China from their village in northern Myanmar. When they returned, they joined thousands of others in makeshift camps near the border. Soldiers remained ubiquitous in the area’s villages, where some houses showed damage from airstrikes. There was no feed left for their farm animals, so Ngau Masar asked Le Mei Tah if he could go to a neighbouring village to grind grain. That was the last she saw or heard of him, as he was one of two people disappeared by the Myanmar Army that day.
Released 05:30GMT/12:00 noon MMT on 14 June 2017
Civilians from minority ethnic groups suffer appalling violations and abuses, including war crimes, at the hands of Myanmar’s military and ethnic armed groups in the country’s Kachin and northern Shan states, Amnesty International said today in a new report based on three recent trips to the conflict area.
‘All the Civilians Suffer’: Conflict, Displacement and Abuse in Northern Myanmar details how soldiers from the Tatmadaw, as Myanmar’s Armed Forces are known, mete out torture and extrajudicial executions, shell civilian villages indiscriminately and place punitive restrictions on movement and humanitarian access.
Meanwhile, some ethnic armed groups at times abduct civilians seen to support an opposing party, forcibly recruit men, women and children into their fighting forces and impose “taxes” on impoverished villagers trapped in the conflict.
An internationally mandated fact-finding mission to look at human rights violations in Myanmar is welcome, urgently needed and long overdue, Amnesty International said today.
“The announcement of an independent international fact-finding mission to look into human rights violations in Myanmar is long overdue. After the Myanmar government’s failure to establish a credible investigation into the security forces’ crimes against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine State, there is an urgent need for a team of international experts examine alleged violations there, in Kachin and in northern Shan State,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
“The Myanmar government should welcome the fact-finding mission and assist it in every possible way with its work. The world has a right to know the full truth of events after Amnesty International and the UN both found that human rights violations against the Rohingya may amount to crimes against humanity.”
Myanmar’s authorities must immediately act on the urgent calls made in an interim report by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, Amnesty International said today.
“The authorities must immediately act on the Rakhine Commission’s recommendations to grant humanitarian access, end the media blackout in northern Rakhine State, and ensure the perpetrators of human rights violations are held accountable,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
On 16 March 2017, the Commission published its interim report, with recommendations to the Myanmar government on “improving the welfare of all people in Rakhine state”. The report’s authors said their recommendations must be met with “urgent action” by the Myanmar authorities.
“Unfortunately, the commission’s recommendations do not far enough to address the increasingly dire situation on the ground. There is much more the authorities can and should do, including lifting restrictions on freedom of movement for the Rohingya and other Muslims,” said Champa Patel.
The Myanmar security forces are responsible for unlawful killings, multiple rapes and the burning down of houses and entire villages in a campaign of violence against Rohingya people that may amount to crimes against humanity, Amnesty International reveals in a new report today.
Based on extensive interviews with Rohingyas in both Myanmar and Bangladesh, as well as analysis of satellite imagery and photos and videos, the report also documents how dozens of people have been arbitrarily arrested during the military’s vicious and disproportionate security campaign in Rakhine State over the past two months.
“The Myanmar military has targeted Rohingya civilians in a callous and systematic campaign of violence. Men, women, children, whole families and entire villages have been attacked and abused, as a form of collective punishment,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
Responding to the news that the President of Myanmar has established a commission to investigate violence in Rakhine state since the 9 October attacks on three border police posts, Amnesty International said:
“An investigation into human rights violations in northern Rakhine state is long overdue. However, it will only be effective if it is independent, impartial and applies international human right law and standards,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
“Our findings point to serious human rights violations and a policy of collective punishment against the Rohingya Muslim population in northern Rakhine State. The authorities have gone beyond any reasonable response to the 9 October border police post attacks to target individuals, whole families and whole villages. It is difficult to imagine how a commission chaired by a former army general – and staffed with the Police Chief – can impartially investigate these allegations against the security forces.
As the Myanmar authorities are subjecting the Rohingya Muslim minority to collective punishment, thousands of refugees who have made it across the border to Bangladesh in desperate need of humanitarian assistance are being forcibly pushed back in flagrant violation of international law, Amnesty International said today.
“The Rohingya are being squeezed by the callous actions of both the Myanmar and Bangladesh authorities. Fleeing collective punishment in Myanmar, they are being pushed back by the Bangladeshi authorities. Trapped between these cruel fates, their desperate need for food, water and medical care is not being addressed,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director.
Amnesty International is calling for an prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into the conduct of Myanmar’s security forces in the restive Rakhine state for human rights violations committed during ongoing security operations in the region.
The organization has received numerous reports that Myanmar’s security forces operating in the state – home to most of the country’s oppressed Rohingya minority – are alleged to be involved in extra-judicial executions, arbitrary arrests and detentions, destroying people’s homes and crimes involving sexual violence amongst other violations. Ongoing restrictions on access to northern Rakhine State has made it extremely difficult to independently verify such claims.
The Myanmar government must urgently lift restrictions that are preventing access to humanitarian aid in Rakhine and Kachin states, Amnesty International said today.
The intensification of the conflict in Kachin State, and the eruption of violence in northern Rakhine State, where a major security operation has led members of the Rohingya and Rakhine communities to flee their homes, has aggravated what was already a serious humanitarian situation in the country.
“The Myanmar authorities must immediately lift restrictions that are preventing the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies from reaching people in need,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.
“Both Rakhine and Kachin States already had tens of thousands of people been displaced by violence in recent years. The events of the past few weeks has aggravated that situation, and put more lives at risk.”
As Aung San Suu Kyi arrives in the United States to meet with President Barack Obama and attend the United Nations General Assembly, the international community must maintain pressure on Myanmar’s authorities to improve the country’s human rights record, Amnesty International said today.
Aung San Suu Kyi’s trip to the US comes as the new civilian-led government enters its sixth month in office. In this time, it has taken some steps to address human rights but still faces challenges bequeathed by a half a century of military rule.
“We have seen encouraging changes as Myanmar eases out from under the shadow of military rule. But there is still a lot more to do to ensure a decisive break with the country’s ugly past of human rights violations,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.
“For almost a quarter of a century, the United Nations General Assembly has adopted a resolution on human rights in Myanmar. It is important that the same happens this year. The gains made so far have to be consolidated and built upon, not left incomplete or eroded.”
The establishment of a high-level commission headed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan is a welcome step towards addressing the human rights situation in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, Amnesty International said today.
“Today’s announcement is a sign that Myanmar’s authorities are taking the situation in Rakhine state seriously. But it will only have been a worthwhile exercise if it paves the way for the realization of human rights for all people in the state,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for South East Asia and the Pacific.
Rakhine state on the western coast of Myanmar is home to many minority groups that have faced decades of human rights violations and abuses, in particular, the persecuted Rohingya minority. The situation there has deteriorated markedly since 2012, when clashes between different groups sparked waves of violence, culminating in scores of deaths, destruction of property and mass displacement.
Released 20 July 2016 00:01 GMT
The Myanmar government must immediately order the relocation of a sulphuric acid factory built dangerously close to a village, which is continuing to operate despite grave concerns over its health and environmental impact, said Amnesty International today.
Residents of Kankone village told Amnesty International on a recent research mission to Myanmar that they are suffering from strong-smelling factory emissions that are causing respiratory, skin and eye problems.
The emissions, the residents said, have also damaged crops in the area. Soil samples examined by a government department and an environmental NGO in 2013 revealed high levels of sulphates in the soil. The test results, while limited, are a cause for serious concern about the factory and its impacts.
The Myanmar authorities must undertake a prompt, independent, thorough, transparent and impartial investigation into the violent destruction of buildings in a mosque compound on Thursday in Bago Region in central Myanmar, said Amnesty International.
“The authorities must take swift action to show that it is treating such incidents against Muslims and other religious minorities seriously. This incident must be immediately and independently investigated and those suspected of involvement must be brought to justice and victims receive effective remedies including reparations,” said Rafendi Djamin, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
On 23 June, an unidentified mob partially destroyed a mosque and other buildings in the mosque compound in Thuyethamain village, Bago Region. According to information received by Amnesty International, the attack erupted after a dispute about a building under construction in the mosque compound.