Thursday, April 26, 2018

Weekly Highlights: The Dignity of Speaking Out - Support Those Who Risk their Lives to Tell the Truth in Myanmar

    

The Dignity of Speaking Out - Support Those Who Risk their Lives to Tell the Truth in Myanmar

Prosecution witness police captain Moe Yan Naing is taken away by some unidentified men after his testimony at the court on Friday. Photo credit: Reuters

 

 

 


In a shocking twist in the trial of the two Reuters journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo for alleged violations of the Official Secrets Act, prosecution witness Police Captain Moe Yan Naing testified that he had been ordered by Police Brigadier General Tin Ko Ko to "trap" the journalists by giving them secret documents. By publicly revealing this plot, Captain Moe Yan Naing told journalists covering the trial that he hoped to show "that police officers, of any rank, have dignity." Indeed, this rare show of bravery and dignity by a member of the state security forces reminds us that among those who implement the brutal commands of the military and police, there may be some whose consciences compel them to come forward and tell the truth, despite the risks.

 

The lawyer for the prosecution asked the judge to declare Captain Moe Yan Naing a "hostile witness," due to the previous conflicting statements he gave outside of court, a designation which would remove the testimony from the official record. However, no designation from the court can remove the explosive testimony from public knowledge, where it has already made an impact. Meanwhile, Captain Moe Yan Naing remains incommunicado in prison under charges of violations of the Official Secrets Act and the Police Act. In response to concerns for his safety, the Myanmar[1] National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) has announced that it will monitor the situation, and urged the Ministry of Home Affairs to protect Captain Moe Yan Naing's rights. Worryingly, the morning after his testimony, his family was evicted from their police housing in the capital of Myanmar, Naypyidaw, in a move that reeks of retaliation but that a police spokesman brushed off as "coincidence."
 

Despite the testimony of Captain Moe Yan Naing, the details of the alleged entrapment of the two Reuters journalists, as well as the military's own internal probe into the massacre in Inn Din village that the reporters were investigating when they were arrested, remain shrouded in mystery and rumor. Despite an official announcement that seven soldiers involved in the killings had been sentenced by a military court, the names of the perpetrators and their location of detention are still not publicly available, not to mention information about the proceedings in military court and the truth about the circumstances surrounding the massacre.
 

Given the complete lack of information about the military's response to the Inn Din massacre, it is not surprising that allegedly-false news has recently circulated about the convicted soldiers. During the Myanmar new year holiday in mid-April, President U Win Myint announced an amnesty for 8,490 prisoners, including 36 political prisoners. Government-affiliated broadcaster Myanmar National Television (MNTV) reported that the seven soldiers convicted for the Inn Din massacre were among those released from Sittwe Prison. Shortly after the report, which was widely shared on social media, government spokesman Zaw Htay refuted the news on his own social media accounts, accusing those who had shared it (though not the original State-affiliated source), including UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Ms. Yanghee Lee, of spreading "fake news." MNTV removed the story and apologized, as did Ms. Yanghee Lee. However, given the lack of transparency around the military court proceedings and the soldiers' identities, it is still unknown whether the soldiers remain in prison or whether they were even sentenced given the lack of independent verification and access to information.
 

Information about the Myanmar Army's atrocities, and the complicity of the government and police force, continues to seep out despite the military and government's efforts to close ranks and control the narrative. For the first time, the UN Secretary-General has included the Myanmar army on a UN blacklist of militaries that have committed sexual violence in armed conflict. In addition, Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, recently requested that the court determine whether it has jurisdiction over deportation of the Rohingya as a crime against humanity, since an essential element of the crime - forced movement across an international border - occurred in Bangladesh, a member of the court. Actions such as these by the international community contribute to revealing the truth by investigating allegations and potentially punishing perpetrators, but international actors cannot reveal the truth on their own.
 

The strength and courage of people in Myanmar using their voices to speak out and seek truth and justice for atrocities committed against marginalized people provides a powerful foundation for democracy and human rights, and must be supported. Starting with the survivors of the violence themselves, others like the Reuters journalists and the local Rakhine sources they spoke to in their investigation of the Inn Din massacre; countless civilians, local leaders and human rights defenders in conflict areas; and now Captain Moe Yan Naing are joining the survivors in standing up for what they know is right, risking their safety and even their family's well-being in the process as they come under fire by the Myanmar Government and the Military. They must be supported and protected, not retaliated against.
 

These courageous acts of dignity and humanity require the public's support as the government continues to refuse independent investigations by the UN and deny the truth that the public rightly deserves. The more people who start to speak up, the closer Myanmar will get to a true and just democracy with real rule of law. Those who expose the truth must not be punished. Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo must be immediately released, as must Captain Moe Yan Naing. While moves by the MNHRC to monitor the situation of Captain Moe Yan Naing are encouraging, the commission must continue to follow-up with concrete actions and also act similarly in other cases. Despite the recent amnesty, over 90 political prisoners remain in prison in Myanmar, many of whom are detained for speaking out about military abuses. The Myanmar Government must side with these whistleblowers, journalists and human rights defenders, not the abusive Myanmar Army, and cooperate with independent UN mechanisms in seeking the truth of the crimes about which these courageous individuals have spoken.

 


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country's name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term 'Myanmar' in acknowledgment that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of 'Myanmar' rather than 'Burma' without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten.

 

 

 

 

STATEMENTS AND PRESS RELEASES

 

Joint Media Statement by H.E. Associate Prof. Dinna Wisnu and H.E. Mr. Edmund Bon Tai Soon, Representatives to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)

By ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights

Boat Arrivals Reemphasize the Need for Regional Action on Rohingya Crisis, ASEAN MPs Warn
By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

Disappointment As Aung San Suu Kyi Keeps Around 90 Political Prisoners in Jail
By Burma Campaign UK

Burma: Kachin Christians Freed from Prison
By Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Myanmar: Account for Murder of Two Kachin Civilians
By Fortify Rights

Myanmar: Two Kachin Religious Leaders Freed in Amnesty
By Fortify Rights

A Tribute to Saw O Moo: Karen Indigenous Rights Defender Gunned Down by Burma Army Soldiers in Mutraw District, Karen State
By Karen Environmental and Social Action Network

Accountability of the State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD Government In Connection with the ICC's Jurisdiction Issue
By Legal Aid Network

Statement: Mutraw Emergency Assistance Team
By Mutraw Emergency Assistance Team

မူေၾတာ္ (ဖာပြန္) ခ႐ိုင္ေဒသ အေရးေပၚကူညီေထာက္ေပးေရးအဖြဲ႕ Mutraw Emergency Assistance Team (MEAT) သတင္းထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္
By Mutraw Emergency Assistance Team

Kachin Communities Worldwide Demand United Nations Security Council Urgently Refers Burma to the International Criminal Court
By 32 Kachin Communities Worldwide

About Progressive Voice

 

Progressive Voice is a participatory rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 the same day that Progressive Voice was formally established. For further information, please see our press release "Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice."

     


Wednesday, April 25, 2018

FBR: PRI’s The World: Dave Eubank Discusses the Rohingya Crisis


PRI’s The World: Dave Eubank Discusses the Rohingya Crisis

25 April 2018

Boston, United States

A water collection point in a Rohingya refugee camp. The upcoming rainy season will create more problems for the make-shift living infrastructure.
A water collection point in a Rohingya refugee camp. The upcoming rainy season will create more problems for the make-shift living infrastructure.

During a recent visit to the United States, Dave Eubank spoke with PRI’s The World regarding the Rohingya crisis, ARSA, and what the future may hold for Rohingya refugees. To listen to the interview, click the link below.

Dave Eubank on PRI’s The World

American aid worker and former special forces officer David Eubank recently returned from Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh where he met with the insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. Eubank tells The World’s Marco Werman the group is poorly trained and funded but determined to offer armed resistance to Myanmar’s government.


Love one another
Unite for freedom, justice and peace
Forgive and do not hate each other
Pray with faith, Act with courage
Never surrender

The Free Burma Rangers’ (FBR) mission is to provide hope, help and love to internally displaced people inside Burma, regardless of ethnicity or religion. Using a network of indigenous field teams, FBR reports on human rights abuses, casualties and the humanitarian needs of people who are under the oppression of the Burma Army. FBR provides medical, spiritual and educational resources for IDP communities as they struggle to survive Burmese military attacks.

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Monday, April 23, 2018

Joint Media Statement by H.E. Associate Prof. Dinna Wisnu and H.E. Mr. Edmund Bon Tai Soon, Representatives to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)

 

Press Release
Statement by H.E. Associate Prof. Dinna Wisnu and H.E. Mr. Edmund Bon Tai Soon, Representatives to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)

 

23 April 2018

 

  

Dear friends and colleagues,

Please see below a
press release by H.E. Associate Prof. Dinna Wisnu and H.E. Mr. Edmund Bon Tai Soon, Representatives to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), who are calling for urgent action by ASEAN to develop a 'whole-of-ASEAN approach' in cooperation with Myanmar to deal more effectively with the human rights and refugee crises emerging from Rakhine State to bring peace and the rule of law, and to promote harmony and reconciliation between the various communities in Myanmar. Apologies for any cross-posting.


In solidarity,

Aung Khaing Min
Executive Director
Progressive Voice
info@progressive-voice.org

________________________
 

Human rights experts from the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) call on urgent action by ASEAN to develop a 'whole-of-ASEAN approach' in cooperation with Myanmar to deal more effectively with the human rights and refugee crises emerging from Rakhine State to bring peace and the rule of law, and to promote harmony and reconciliation between the various communities in Myanmar.
 

23 April 2018 – The Indonesian and Malaysian Representatives to the AICHR have called on Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to urgently identify more effective measures and practical steps to fulfil ASEAN's commitment to bring peace and the rule of law, and to promote harmony and reconciliation between the various communities of different backgrounds, ethnicities and religions in Myanmar. Such action is critical to strengthen human security and stabilise the region.
 

The call comes after boats ferrying refugees, mostly women and children, originating from Rakhine State were intercepted by several ASEAN Member States on the 3rd, 6th and 20th of April 2018. There were reportedly others who were not so fortunate to have survived the journey. More boats from Rakhine State are expected to make their way to neighbouring countries in the coming months.
 

The Representatives noted that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have been assisting survivors of human trafficking and smuggling across the region. They have also identified the increasing vulnerabilities of communities in Myanmar given the perceived erosion in the rule of law and the disruption of fundamental social and economic systems. Reports on the planned repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh back to Myanmar have also raised concerns over possible further violence given that there have been no visible effective steps to address the root causes of the crises in Rakhine State.

 

Ahead of the ASEAN Summit scheduled for 25 to 28 April 2018 in Singapore, and as a follow up to paragraph 9 of the Press Statement by the Chairman of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting (AMM) on 6 February 2018, the Representatives said:
 

"We are extremely concerned that in spite of the numerous ASEAN statements and the diplomatic and humanitarian efforts thus far, including initiatives proposed and solutions offered by some AICHR Representatives, the situation on the ground has not tangibly improved. At this point in time, it seems that the crisis of Rakhine State will become a perpetual one - more are being internally displaced, and a new wave of refugees have little choice but to take to the sea in the arduous and dangerous journey for safety. Individually, we continue to receive reports after reports about the worsening situation in Rakhine. While we still believe that ASEAN is best placed to take pro-active measures in order to achieve durable solutions, it appears that we are failing to swiftly and fully utilise the collective resources of our ASEAN Bodies in response to this humanitarian crisis. We have thus opened ourselves to critique that we are not serious in realising our aspirations for a rules-based, people-oriented, people-centred ASEAN Community where all ASEAN peoples enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms. Clearly this issue can no longer be addressed by one or a few Member States, but ASEAN as a regional group must deal with the stark realities facing us. It must be a 'whole-of-ASEAN-approach', and no Member State should be passing the buck."
 

The Representatives commended the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) in doing what it can to help provide relief to those affected. They highlighted that the problem must also be considered from a human rights perspective for a sustainable end to the crisis.
 

"A transparent, comprehensive, on-the-ground, needs- and rights-based assessment and risk analysis must now be undertaken to not only provide aid that is comprehensive, but also to ensure effective protection for the affected communities and to provide long-lasting solutions. This would require Myanmar to open up and share information in ASEAN Meetings. Member States through relevant Sectoral Bodies will then be able to propose assistance whether through technical expertise or financial and resource aid. We must be serious if we are to end the crisis, and the problems faced by the affected peoples. To achieve this goal, Myanmar could invite the Representatives of AICHR for a visit to Rakhine. The visit would allow us to obtain a fuller picture of the current situation, and to find better ways in reaching a lasting solution," the experts said.
 

The Representatives further noted that the crisis seems to have generated more international discussions and concern outside of ASEAN compared to within ASEAN. In light of the numerous commitments by all the Member States as contained in the ASEAN Charter, the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (ACTIP), the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), Member States cannot turn a blind eye to ASEAN's international human rights obligations.
 

The experts stressed: "Article 2 of the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration 2012 (AHRD) states that every person is entitled to the rights and freedoms set forth in the AHRD without distinction of any kind, such as race, gender, age, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, economic status, birth, disability or other status. The Phnom Penh Statement on the Adoption of the AHRD reiterates ASEAN and its Member States' commitments to the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, and other international human rights instruments to which ASEAN Member States are parties as well as to relevant ASEAN declarations pertaining to human rights.
 

"These commitments should be translated into action by ensuring coordination and cooperation of all relevant ASEAN Bodies to positively contribute to ending the crisis. Myanmar should allow ASEAN to play a bigger role like it did in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis. For example, Myanmar could invite the Senior Officials' Meeting on Health Development (SOMHD) to strategically deploy health officials and facilities from Member States and the international community to support the Government's relief, recovery and reconstruction efforts. Unhindered humanitarian access and assistance could also be facilitated in addition to establishing 'model neighbourhoods' as safe spaces for all who need them.
 

"The AICHR, which has an overarching human rights mandate in the region, and its Representatives, may assist and advise in the next imperative steps to seek out ASEAN's common approach and position on the human rights issues and challenges affecting Myanmar. The AICHR ought to be tasked to lead the initiative, and we urge the ASEAN Leaders to open the necessary channels for this to happen. Since ASEAN officials are meeting in Singapore at the Summit, an urgent meeting of all relevant Sectoral Bodies should be called to discuss concrete steps for action. We stand ready to act."
 

The Representatives further noted that internal efforts within the AICHR over the years have been made to raise the issues but unfortunately, no consensus has been achieved. However, it is encouraging that at least there are indications of interest to share information on the situation.
 

"We have exhausted the possible avenues presently available within the AICHR. Time is precious. We can no longer sit by idly even for one day while the crisis continues, or we will eventually have to account for the AICHR's collective silence. As Representatives of the AICHR tasked by the AICHR's Terms of Reference, we, as individual Representatives, make this joint statement in furtherance of our impartial discharge of our duties to promote and protect human rights in the region. With this, we sincerely hope that the ASEAN Leaders will consider our recommendations, and keep the AICHR informed and aligned on the inside track with plans to handle the crisis in Rakhine," the experts concluded.

 

Read the press release HERE.
 

-------

[1]The experts: H.E. Associate Prof. Dinna Wisnu, Ph.D is Indonesia's Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) and H.E. Mr. Edmund Bon Tai Soon is Malaysia's Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). They can be reached at the following email addresses respectively: dinnawisnu@gmail.com and ebon@amerbon.com.

 

[2] Press Statement by the Chairman of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting (AMM): http://asean.org/storage/2018/02/Press-Statement-by-the-Chairman-of-the-ASEAN-Foreign-Ministers-Retreat-clean.pdf

 

 

 

About Progressive Voice

 

Progressive Voice is a participatory rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 the same day that Progressive Voice was formally established. For further information, please see our press release "Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice."

 

    
 

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Have you got your Blue Shirt ready for Saturday?

Dear friend

This Saturday is Blue Shirt Day, when people around the world will be showing their support for political prisoners in Burma.

21st April is the fourth anniversary of the death of U Win Tin, a former political prisoner who famously continued to wear his blue prison shirt after his release in support of political prisoners.

Join Blue Shirt Day to raise awareness of political prisoners still in Burma's jails. Wear something blue and post pictures of yourself on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, using the hashtag: #blueshirt4burma

This week showed just how important it is to keep up the pressure for all political prisoners to be released.

On Tuesday, 36 political prisoners were released from jail, including political prisoners we have been campaigning for. Dumdaw Nawng Latt and Langjaw Gam Seng, two ethnic Kachin pastors jailed after helping reporters cover a military offensive by the Burmese army, have been released.


Dumdaw Nawng Latt and Langjaw Gam Seng, Kachin pastors who were released on Tuesday.

Lahpai Gam, an ethnic Kachin farmer who was arrested, tortured and jailed after being falsely accused of being involved with armed Kachin organisation, has also been released. This is wonderful news for those political prisoners and their families. Thank you to everyone who has helped campaign for their release.

They were released under an amnesty from the President. So it is very disappointing that the President and Aung San Suu Kyi decided to keep around 90 other political prisoners in jail, including Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two Reuters journalists currently on trial.

Repressive laws are still in place, and these laws are being used to intimidate, arrest and jail political activists, journalists and ethnic minorities.

It seems that under the NLD government there is still no end in sight to the scourge of political prisoners in Burma's jails.

That's why we must keep up the pressure for all political prisoners to be released.

On Saturday, please wear something blue and post pictures of yourself on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

Please use the hashtag: #blueshirt4burma

Let people know that there are still political prisoners in jail in Burma, and that they need our support.

Thank you.

Anna Roberts
Burma Campaign UK
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