Myanmar Human Rights Report
Cara Feit, Class of 2020
AP World History Section 2
January 21, 2018
The government also refers to Rohingya as “Bengali,” which implies illegal migrant status in Burma (Burma Events). Put this sentence somewhere. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is the list of the rights that everyone is entitled to, regardless of race, religion, sex, ethnicity, or anything else without discrimination. Article III of the Declaration states, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.,” (United Nations). The Rohingya Muslims, however, are heavily discriminated against and face many violations of human rights, particularly killings, physical abuse, torture, sexual violence, and rape, on the basis of their ethnicity, race, and religion, which directly violates Article III. The Rohingya Muslims are an ethnic minority, the majority of whom are located primarily the Rakhine State of Myanmar (Gibbens). They are not recognized by the Burmese government as lawful citizens due to the belief that the Rohingya crossed into Myanmar illegitimately from Bangladesh during the time when Myanmar was under British rule, and thus they are living in Myanmar illegally (Gibbens). This theory appears to be true because the Rohingya have a darker skin color and a different religion, but the Rohingya have roots in Myanmar historically and ancestrally (Uddin). The military regime that came to power, however, deemed them to be foreigners and used religion as a means of determining rightful citizenship. Because Buddhism is closely integrated into Burmese identity and culture, the Buddhist leaders denied citizenship to the Rohingya Muslims (Uddin). In 1982, the government passed the Citizenship Law, which contained a list of the 135 nationally acknowledged ethnic minorities (Department of State 2016 ????!!!). This law prevented the Rohingya from obtaining citizenship and denied them the right to live in Myanmar, leaving them stateless and vulnerable (Uddin). Currently, many Burmese feel Buddhism is integral to their national identity and are unwelcoming to the Rohingya Muslims (Strathern). Nationalist groups have rallied behind slogans such as, “To be Burmese is to be Buddhist,” and their message has resonated with the majority of the population (“Buddhism in Myanmar”). Although Buddhism teaches to not have aggressive thoughts and eliminate them through meditation, it is ignored by the Buddhist monks of Myanmar, who are the most OUTHERE? In Myanmar!!! (Strathern).
Early Burmese rulers, known as “kings of righteousness,” vindicated wars in the name of “true Buddhist doctrine,” similarly to how recent Buddhist monks in Myanmar have justified violence against Rohingya in the name of a higher good. Although the Rohingya are a small and generally peaceful minority, they are still being attacked by Buddhist monks, who are supposed to be peaceful and compassionate. The nationalist group 969 is a band of monks led by Ashin Wirathu, an ultranationalist Buddhist monk jailed in 2003 for inciting religious hatred (Strathern). Wirathu has called himself “The Burmese bin Laden,” (Strathern) and been referred to as “The Face of Buddhist Terror,” (Oppenheim). Wirathu has provoked violence against Rohingya with speeches and anti-Muslim messages that often contain false information that depict the Rohingya as aggressive foreigners (Specia and Mozur). For example, riots resulted in a destroyed mosque and over 100 people dead in a town after Wirathu gave a speech there (Oppenheim). At least 40 died due to mob violence against Muslims, and in addition, Buddhist mobs attacked mosques and burned more than 70 Muslim homes following an incident in which a young girl ran into a monk on a bicycle (Strathern). Nationalists like Wirathu are encouraging the idea that Islam puts Buddhism and Myanmar in jeopardy, and the government agrees (Oppenheim). The Burmese police and military have conducted systematic and widespread attacks on the Rohingya which point to a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” (Gibbens). The human rights violations in Myanmar of killings, rapes, torture, physical abuse, sexual abuse, arson, the use of child soldiers, and the use of landmines against Rohingya are based on race, ethnicity, religion, social relations, political policies, internal conflicts, and the sole intolerance of the Rohingya Muslims.
Rohingya women face violations of their human rights by the Myanmar government, military, and police, which include restrictions on reproductive rights, refusal of marriage registrations, abuses against the welfare of women, and rape, sexual abuse, and killings (Department of State 2016 37). Women who are displaced, stateless, or living in conflict zones are particularly exposed to abductions, sexual violence, and killings (Burma Events). Rohingya women also face restrictions on movement and limited access to health-care services, which contributed to higher maternal mortality rates among Rohingya (Department of State 2016 38). The Myanmar government has enacted the Population Control and Health Care Law, which limits families to only two children, though the law is only in effect in Rakhine State and only applies to Rohingya women (Department of State 2015 39). Local authorities also required Rohingya peoples to obtain a permit to officially get married, which was not required for people of other ethnicities. The wait times for this permit usually exceeded a year and bribes were required, but unauthorized marriages could result in the arrest of Rohingya men under the law (Department of State 2016 12). Rape, though illegal, is extremely common and a significant problem because the government and police did not enforce the law. Police usually investigated cases of rape, but they rarely followed through with prosecutions. There were also reports of police being insensitive to victims, including reports of police verbally abusing women (Department of State 2016 38). The Burmese armed forces have frequently raped many women in a “systematic and widespread manner” (Gelineau). There have been reports of rape of Rohingya by military officials in Kachin, Shan, and Rakhine States. Sexual violence by the military is very problematic because there is no accountability for these crimes (Burma Events). Many Rohingya women were gang-raped and then killed by members of the Burmese armed forces with the perpetrators having complete impunity from their crimes. These sexual abuse crimes have been committed due to the hatred of the Rohingya Muslims based on their ethnicity and religion, though the government denies the rape of women by any of its soldiers (Department of State 2015 39).
For example, two Kachin schoolteachers were discovered murdered in Shan State. It was the public’s belief that members of the Burmese army raped and killed the schoolteachers, but there were no eyewitnesses, and government officials denied that the rape took place. A report, however, stated insufficient cooperation from military and police authorities an investigation of the transparency of the government (Department of State 2015 3). In another case, a 28-year-old woman was raped, robbed, and killed in the southern Shan State, with locals reporting that soldiers from a nearby battalion committed the crime. (Department of State 2015 39). One soldier was accused of the rape of a 73-year-old woman, but he was not convicted because of a lack of forensic evidence (Department of State 2015 15). MORE EVIDENCE OF RAPE. There were accounts of sexual atrocities reportedly committed in cold blood out of a lethal hatred of these people solely on the basis of their ethnicity and religion. Women and girls had died while being raped by gangs of men or raped and then left to die as their houses were burned down (Cumming-Bruce).
The abuses against children consisted of recruiting children for the armed forces, refusing birth registration for Rohingya children, and other abuses due to the violence of armed conflict and displacing children. The government’s laws do not contain adequate laws to prevent abuses against children, and even those laws were not enforced. The continued violence in Rakhine State has displaced many families and children with restrictions on their movement. Displaced children and children in conflict areas had a noticeably higher mortality rate than in the rest of the country (Department of State 2016 41). Child soldiers continued to be recruited and enlisted in the military, many forced to serve because of threats, violence, coercion, intimidation, or were misled by false promises such as training or education. Underage children who fled military service were arrested and imprisoned on charges of desertion, though it was illegal for them to be enlisted in the first place (Department of State 2015 17). Birth registration in the Rohingya community is a serious problem because they were unable to obtain birth certificates. Birth certificates provide protection for children against recruitment into the armed forces, child labor, and early marriage, but many Rohingya were either denied one or had restricted access to them (Department of State 2016 41). Approximately 5,000 Rohingya children were not registered because they were born out of wedlock, not one of the first two children, or did not have a birth certificate (Department of State 2015 39).
The Rohingya Muslims were victim to extreme social, legal, and economic discrimination and many cases of abuse of human rights based on race. For instance, they had limited access to health care, education, and other basic services such as shelter, clean water, sanitation, and food; and they were prevented from working as civil servants such as doctors, nurses, and teachers. Rohingya also faced restrictions on their ability to travel, engage in economic activity such as trading or investing, build houses or religious buildings, and register births, deaths, and marriages. Authorities arbitrarily arrested Rohingya and used them in forced labor, and the Rohingya were denied the right to a just and fair trial (Department of State 2016 33). The police and military did not effectively work against religious hatred or condemn the perpetrators of attacks against religious minorities to justice (Amnesty International). Furthermore, the government has continually failed to investigate abuses against Rohingya and has not allowed the United Nations to conduct an independent investigation into the human rights abuses. (Burma Events). Many Rohingya either are or are hoping to become naturalized citizens, but under the law they will be unable to pass citizenship rights to their descendants; serve in the military, law enforcement, or public administration; inherit land or money; or pursue certain professional degrees, such as medicine and law if they become naturalized (Department of State 2016 33). Muslims reported unequal treatment by police, pressures to practice Islam in private, close monitoring of their travel by the government, and restrictions on restrictions on education. A mob attack against Muslims left one man injured and a mosque and other Muslim-owned buildings destroyed, and no action was taken against the suspected perpetrators (Amnesty International). Furthermore, a mob attacked a Muslim prayer hall in Kachin State, for which five people were arrested, but no one was brought to justice by the end of the year (Amnesty International). Large crowds destroyed two Muslim places of worship in Kachin State, during which MaBaTha monks led crowds in the attacks, provoked by allegations that the new construction in both cases was illegal. Police arrested a small number of individuals involved in the violence and then released them after five days. The government did not investigate either incident or file charges against any perpetrators by year’s end. Clashes between government forces and ethnic armed groups broke out periodically in northern and southern Shan State during the year (Department of State 2015 15). MAYBE MOVE SOMEWHERE ELSE
The government refused access to displaced communities to humanitarian organizations, media, and human rights monitors, and increased restrictions for these groups to enter. In Rakhine State, humanitarian agencies faced irregular and often restricted access to vulnerable communities where they could provide services (Department of State 2016 26). Humanitarian workers were pressured by locals to reduce assistance to Muslims. The government affected over 150,000 people after suspending all humanitarian services in Rakhine State following attacks, and 30,000 internally displaced people still had no access to sustained humanitarian aid because of security operations by the end of the year (Amnesty International). Government travel restrictions on humanitarian agencies have led to food insecurity and malnutrition (Burma Events). The government restricted the passage of relief supplies and access by humanitarian organizations to conflict-affected areas (Department of State 2016 15). In one case the government blocked local organizations from delivering humanitarian provisions via waterway to 1,400 civilians displaced from Sumprabung Township after fighting broke out between the Kachin Independence Army and the military in July (Department of State 2015 15).
The government lacks protection of refugees and internally displaced persons, and its laws do not help those in need. The Rohingya people are the majority of those displaced by violence in Myanmar. There are over 250,000 internally displaced persons in Myanmar, over 150,000 of which are Rohingya people displaced by fighting in Rakhine State (Amnesty International). Thousands have been displaced after their homes were destroyed, and at least 27,000 fled with 120,000 Rohingya staying in camps. At the end of September, there were over 150,000 registered asylum seekers and refugees from Myanmar in Malaysia (Department of State 2016 26). Myanmar’s laws, however, do not grant asylum or refugee status, and there is no system to protect refugees (Department of State 2016 26). The government also did not cooperate with humanitarian organizations in order to provide protection and assistance to internally displaced persons, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other persons of concern (Department of State 2015 27). The government restricted the travel of and forcibly relocated internally displaced persons and stateless persons!!!!. Most internally displaced persons stayed in camps with limited or no access to education, health care, and food with a severe health crisis due to poor living conditions, overcrowding, and limited health facilities (Burma Events).
The Myanmar government does not have any laws that protect the freedom of internal movement and foreign travel (Department of State 2015 27). Most Rohingya faced severe restrictions on their freedom of movement (Department of State 2016 26). They were confined to their villages or displacement camps and segregated from other communities, and their access to jobs, health care, food, and education were restricted. The government required Rohingya to receive approval prior to their journey for travel outside their village of residence, and they were also required to carry special documents and travel permits. In addition, receiving the forms and permits necessary for travel often involved bribes (Department of State 2016 26). The government required extra documents for foreign travel exclusively for Rohingya, but they were unable to obtain the necessary forms (Department of State 2016 26). Authorities refused identification documents to Rohingya and enforced unfair regulations on freedom of movement for Rohingya because of their race, ethnicity, and religion. Rohingya Muslims were effectively prevented from traveling outside of Rakhine State for the most part due to travel restrictions (Department of State 2016 26).
The security forces in Myanmar were responsible for serious deprivation of life abuses and unlawful acts due to internal conflicts. There were many reports of unlawful killings, random firing on civilians, rape, sexual violence, forced labor, torture, the use of landmines, the use of child soldiers, arbitrary arrests and detentions, mistreatment in detention, forced labor, deaths in custody, denial of fair trial, and arson against Rohingyas (Department of State 2016 33). Military officials seriously abused civilians in conflict areas with no consequences because Myanmar has no effective legal systems to investigate and prosecute abuses by security forces (Department of State 2015 2). The military were alleged to have abducted, tortured, and killed suspected combatants, burned villages, and forced civilians to porter or act as human shields (Department of State 2016 14). Security forces subjected detainees to harsh interrogation techniques designed to intimidate and disorient, like severe beatings and deprivation of food, water, and sleep. There are still many incidents reported of torture in conflict areas (Department of State 2016 3). The military has also been reported to torture and beat civilians believed to be working with ethnic armed groups (Department of State 2016 15). The military also abducted villagers in conflict-stricken states (Department of State 2016 16). In one example, a battalion detained three men in Kachin State without providing a reason for taking them. Family and community members believed that the battalion tortured the three, and one died as a result. It was believed that the battalion released the two others, but they had not returned home since the reported release. The battalion also denied that the one died in military detention (Department of State 2015 15). According to the Karen Human Rights Organization, in Karen State, a lieutenant from the Border Guard Force Battalion detained and violently beat a villager after accusing him of being in contact with and supportive of the ethnic armed group Karen National Liberation Army (Department of State 2015 3). Soldiers abused, beat, and killed individuals not involved in the conflict. The Shan Human Rights Foundation reported that the military forced 48 civilians in three separate occasions to march in front of soldiers as protection for nearly 24 hours, each time without food or water (Department of State 2016 14). Following a battle, the military allegedly arrested, beat, and tortured five villagers using wires attached to a car battery for two nights, later forcing them to porter for the soldiers. Villagers reportedly discovered and identified the bodies of three civilians not engaged in the conflict (Department of State 2016 15). Military personnel allegedly killed two civilians and arbitrarily arrested and detained 13 civilians. One of those detained disappeared following his arrest and remained missing (Department of State 2016 16). Soldiers in northern Shan State killed five men after arresting and interrogating dozens for possible association with ethnic armed groups. Villagers discovered the bodies in shallow graves a few days later. Soldiers reportedly killed two other men, whose bodies villagers found next to the other five. The military did not accept responsibility for those two deaths, and an investigation was pending at year’s end (Department of State 2016 15). Villagers found the bodies of two young men, reportedly including one minor, in a boat the day after they went fishing. Villagers noted that they last saw the two near a Border Guard Police station, but no investigation took place and the perpetrators were unknown at year’s end (Department of State 2016 33). Local organizations reported 24 cases of arbitrary arrest and detention in Rakhine State. A number of those arrested reported authorities beat them while in prison. One man arrested reported that officials handcuffed and tied him to the roof of the prison, where they slapped, punched, and beat him and set his chest on fire. Local NGOs reported widely credible incidents of forced labor, most allegedly perpetrated by the Tatmadaw and the Border Guard Police. Government officials reportedly used villagers for maintenance work and were either unpaid or received compensation that was well below market rates (Department of State 2016 33).
Fighting between the Myanmar military and ethnic armed groups worsened over the year, displacing thousands of civilians. The country’s security forces deliberately and massively targeted civilians in operations that drove more than 626,000 Rohingya out of Myanmar (Cumming-Bruce). Government shelling and airstrikes have been conducted against ethnic areas, in violation of the laws of war. Both government and non-state groups have been implicated in the use of anti-personnel landmines and forced recruitment, including of children (Burma Events). In Northern Shan State, fighting between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South has grown throughout the year (Burma Events). The conflict between the Kachin Independence Army and the Myanmar Army escalated, with the second turning to air strikes and shelling, killing and injuring civilians (Amnesty International). In September, fighting between ethnic armed groups and government forces in Karen State displaced about 5,900 civilians (Burma Events). In Kachin and Shan States, continuing armed clashes between the government army and ethnic armed groups displaced thousands of persons, and more than 98,000 persons remained displaced by conflict those states (Department of State 2016 16). In Rakhine, more than 120,000 remained displaced, and more than 100,000 are displaced in Shan and Kachin States (Burma Events). In some cases, villagers driven from their homes fled into the forest, frequently in heavily mined areas, without adequate food, security, or basic medical care. Satellite imagery in November revealed widespread fire-related destruction in Rohingya villages, with a total of 430 destroyed buildings in three villages of Maungdaw district (Burma Events). Local security officials in Rakhine State committed violent crimes and arbitrarily arrested an unknown number of Rohingya. Following violent attacks against Border Guard Police posts on October 9, UN and NGO reports estimated more than 20,000 persons in northern Rakhine State began to move across the Bangladeshi border to flee security operations underway in the area. During September, fighting erupted in Kayin State when the Border Guard Force and the Myanmar Army clashed with a splinter group from the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army. Further fighting broke out between the Myanmar Army and the Arakan Army in Rakhine State. In November, the Brotherhood of the Northern Alliance, a new coalition of four armed ethnic groups in northern Myanmar, launched coordinated attacks on security outposts in Kachin and northern Shan states. The groups said the attacks were in response to ongoing offensives by the Myanmar Army (Amnesty International). Government forces engaged in widespread and systematic violent abuses of noncombatant and civilian populations in Kachin, Karen, and Rakhine states and parts of Shan State (Department of State 2015 15). In Kachin and Rakhine States and parts of Shan State, clashes between NCA nonsignatory groups and the government continued, with credible allegations of abuse of civilian populations by both the military and ethnic armed groups. The majority of clashes took place in northern Shan and Kachin States (Department of State 2016 14). During clearance operations in northern Rakhine State, there were reports of approximately 100 civilian deaths, as well as 900 homes burned and approximately 30,000 displaced civilians (Department of State 2016 16).