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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2740

Who will stop human rights abuses for peacemaking?

By - Zin Linn

Today, Myanmar is changing from an autocracy to a parliament-based democracy. Certainly, some constructive changes have taken place but they have not reached enough in favor of building a true democratic union.

Accordingly, all stakeholders, including the existing government, political parties and civil-based organizations and all citizens of the country need to press ahead in support of democratic civilization.

Notably, all parties and stakeholders in Myanmar must focus on challenges and the actions of anti-democratic elements that threaten to obstruct the thin-skinned transitional political reforms and the ongoing peace course. Although some positive changes have emerged in the country, there are concerns with regards to the continued imprisonment of political prisoners, the unlawful detentions of human rights activists, the inauguration of development projects in violation of human rights with other human rights abuses, such as forced displacement and illegal land confiscations, and sexual violence against women and girls.

It is depressing that there are rumors concerning the forced reparation of refugees and Internationally Displaced Persons. Also, people are frustrated with the current government and the ruling party for its failures to bring the person responsible for recent racial and religious riots to justice.

When the people continue to suffer from such abuses of human rights and as victims of the ongoing civil war, President U Thein Sein and other stakeholders such as the government army, the ethnic armed groups, political activists and the civil society organizations must build trust in order to achieve a lasting, genuine peace and true democratic development. It is crucial that President Thein Sein government adheres to democratic principles so as to facilitate all stakeholders to work towards sustainable peace and prosperity in the nation.

Myanmar or Burma's ethnic minorities have been suffering human rights abuses through brutal military operations in the name of national unity since 1950s. Attacks on these resource rich ethnic areas maintain as a regular challenge. There is a unwavering claim from ethnic groups to enjoy equal political, social and economic rights. The Constitution needs to guarantee the rights of autonomy and of equal representation for every ethnic group corresponding to democratic norms. It is also essential to include provisions against racial inequities.

For example, in May this year, Palaung Women's Organization (PWO) and Ta'ang Student and Youth Organization (TSYO) released a statement against human rights violations, including violence against women, in Palaung areas. The two organizations also released a report - Update of human right violations by the Burma Army during offensives in Palaung areas (March and April 2013) -- highlighting offensives and abuses by government troops during first 4 months of 2013.

As a result, the report says, thousand of local people have been displaced from their hometown as internal displaced persons to Mantong, Namkham, Kuitkhai townships and there are increasing numbers of IDPs freshly in Tangyan township too.

In their press statement, the groups have mentioned that during the past four months, the Burma Army has been carrying out fierce military offensives in Palaung areas against the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

The Palaung Women's Organization (PWO) and Ta'ang Students and Youth Organization (TSYO) say that they are seriously worried the brunt of the hostility on local communities, who have suffered widespread abuses by the government soldiers.

PWO and TSYO also states in their report that soldiers raped women and forced young girls at gunpoint to guide and also used hem as porters for the government troops. Some villagers were killed by landmines while they were tied up and forced to work as porters.

The two organizations say in their statement that there have been hostilities in their Palaung areas since 2011. Furthermore, thousands of people have to flee their homes because of attacks and human rights abuses as the renewed fighting against the KIA, TNLA and SSA-N has been going on so far. Over 2,000 locals in Mantong and Namkham, and 2,000 in Kutkhai have become internally displaced person in Mantong, Namkham and Kutkhai, and over 1,500 have been displaced in Tangyan, the statement says.

According to the press statement, two women from Yay-Pone village, Mantong Township, Northern Shan State, were recently raped by government soldiers from LIB 502 on April 19th and 20th, 2013.

A villager from Yay-Pone said: "It is very difficult for the victims to speak out about rape. They were threatened by the soldiers not to tell anyone, so the rest of the community is scared. It is very dangerous for us to speak out."

Even though the President U Thein Sein Government has been holding peace negotiations and signed ceasefire agreements with various ethnic armed groups, its armed forces are still launching military offensives, and committing widespread human rights violations in ethnic areas.

The government's peace initiatives thus appear to be just a public relations exercise in preparation for the chairmanship of ASEAN in 2014, and the upcoming 2015 elections. They are not sincere about seeking a political solution to the conflict, the two organizations criticized through their statement.

PWO also urges the government to stop increasing the number of government troops in ethnic areas, withdraw all troops from these areas, and stop all military offensives. It also urges to immediately stop rape, torture, all kinds of violence against women and other serious human right violations by Burma Army troops. PWO suggests authorizing the Myanmar National Human Rights Co

Moreover, it also claims to take responsibility to ensure that government troops who have committed sexual violence and other serious crimes in ethnic areas are brought to justice. Then it says to permit humanitarian agencies to freely access and assist the IDPs until it is safe for them to return home voluntarily.

Most important case is that even though the government has repeatedly said to restore rule of law, its respective authorities, including the local administrators, judges and police, are still abusing the power without restraint. Besides, the military and its soldiers are still above the law. As a result, human rights violations are widespread in the country.

If the government and its troops hesitated making a genuine decision to reach a total end of civil war as well as total pulling out of armed forces from the ethnic territories, peace process in Myanmar may not be reached in near future. In fact, a successful peacemaking scheme totally banks on the sincerity of the eleven-member National Defense and Security Council which was formed with the President, two Vice-Presidents, the Lower House Speaker, the Upper House Speaker, the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services, the Defense Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister of Border Affairs.

- Asian Tribune -

Who will stop human rights abuses for peacemaking?
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