Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Weekly Highlights: Now is the Time to Act, Sexual Violence Must End in Burma

 

23 - 29 June 2014

Weekly Highlights

Now is the Time to Act, Sexual Violence Must End in Burma 


On 10 June 2014, the Burma government prepared to sign the 'Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict' at the end of a three-day global summit, which aimed to "shatter the culture of impunity for sexual violence in conflict." On the same day, a woman was brutally beaten by a Burma Army soldier during an attempted rape in Rezua, Chin State. The eyewitnesses who spoke to the Chin Human Rights Organization said that the women was held down by the soldier, while he repeatedly beat her. She was rushed to the hospital and is fortunately now in recovery.

This brutal event has lead to a series of demonstrations in Rezua and Matupi, Chin State this week, calling for an end to sexual violence. According to The Irrawaddy, protesters held placards that stated: "Stop raping; We are humans, not animals. We are humans, not property." Though the organizers requested to hold the rally, the local police denied their applications and they have been arrested for staging a peaceful demonstration without permission, ironically under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law.

However, this recent case of attempted rape is not a one-off incident of a rogue Burma Army soldier. A report produced by Women's League of Burma (WLB) 'Same Patterns, Same Impunity' demonstrates how the sexual violence inflicted by the Burma Army soldiers are systematic in nature and a part of a wider structural system of politicizing women's bodies and abusing them as instruments of war and oppression. The data collected by WLB and its members found that since the 2010 elections, over 100 cases of rape has been documented, of which 47 were brutal gang rapes and victims were as young as eight years old. Most of the documented cases were linked to Kachin and Northern Shan State where military offensives have been taking place since 2011, indicating that rape and sexual violence is in fact, used as a weapon in an attempt to demoralize the ethnic communities and to assert dominance over them.

In addition, the court-martial system established by the 2008 constitution allows the military to evade prosecution by enabling the accused to be tried in a military court rather than a civilian court. As recommended by the former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Burma, in a report produced by the UN Secretary-General, "amendment of constitutional provisions to provide better accountability and civilian oversight over military tribunals" is the first step in bringing justice and access to appropriate forms of complaint for the survivors of sexual violence. The perpetrators must be held accountable, while protection and assistance should be provided to survivors so that they can begin to recover from the trauma without further humiliation and intimidation from their communities.

The issue of sexual violence in conflict is moving up the international agenda, but the international community must keep pressuring the Burma government to uphold their promise of ending sexual violence. Now that Burma has signed the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict, what the people of Burma are "looking for is concrete action from the Burmese government to end sexual violence," said WLB in a statement during the global summit.

It is time for the Burma government to live up to its rhetoric of transformation and democracy by ensuring that all people in Burma, including women, can be a part of this transition.  This means that respect for women, their safety and their rights, must be urgently promoted and prioritized by the Burma government. Not only is sexual violence prohibited under all applicable international law, rape is also criminalized under Article 375 of the Myanmar Penal Code, with severe penalties stipulated under Article 376. The Burma government should commit to enforcing existing laws on top of amending the Constitution and enacting any additional laws, such as the Anti-Violence Against Women Law drafted by women's groups, that are required to prevent rape and sexual abuses taking place with impunity.

The Burma Army must not be allowed to continue using rape and all forms of sexual violence as a tool to instill fear and oppress the ethnic communities. There must be an independent investigation into current and past human rights violations including sexual violence in order to stop the pattern of impunity. Without an end to sexual violence, there can be no peace or democracy in Burma. 

News Highlights

General Tamla Baw, one of the most respected leaders of the Karen National Union passes away in Mae Saraing, Thailand

Parliament amends Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, a widely criticized law responsible for the imprisonment of many political activists, but the changes are mostly cosmetic and some say the government has retained the power to restrict freedom of expression

Inside Burma

National League for Democracy (NLD) says they will hold their first nationwide youth congress at the Royal Rose Restaurant in Rangoon in early July, an event which has been postponed since January due to the nation wide campaign to amend the Constitution

National Democratic Force says its proportional representation (PR) system proposal was only meant for majority of the Burman-populated regions and does not extend to ethnic states and ethnic political parties to protests across eastern Shan State if PR voting system is passed by the lower house of Parliament

Chin National Democratic Party says Religious Conversion Law drafted by the Ministry of Religious Affairs unacceptable, as it violates an individual's right to religious freedom

Most of the political parties in Karen State are inclined to accept the land and car import permits offered by the Union Election Commission proposal that has been submitted to President Thein Sein, while NLD has refused the offer

President Thein Sein appoints Burma Army general and Deputy Home Affairs Minister Maung Maung Ohn as the new Chief Minister of Arakan State

Burma Army and Kachin Independence Army clash at Gaw Ngu Yang near Nam Hka village, in southern Kachin State

Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) says Burma Army has detained two soldiers from Arakan Liberation Army for entering Burma Army's territory from a neighboring country, but denies the allegation that a battle took place with Border Security Forces

Nay Myo Zin and Win Cho are released from Insein Prison after spending 84 days in jail under the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law

Farmers in Min Hla Township, Pegu region are asked to pay bribes by the local Department of Land Statistics when requesting land certificates

Rangoon Division's Special Intelligence Department investigates the finances of privately owned daily newspapers and weekly journals for the first time, an ominous sign for Burma's media groups

Regional

At the seminar on 'Rohingya's Solution for Better Protection' in Bangkok, Thailand, rights advocates say neighboring countries must engage more to find a solutions to the issues that Rohingyas are facing in Rakhine State

Burma to purchase Chinese-Pakistani JF-17 Fighter Jets and are likely to use them in combat with the Kachin Independence Army

Thailand's Thonburi Hospital Group to build three hospitals and clinics nationwide and expand aggressively in Burma by investing 5 billion baht (US$165 million) into these establishments

International Labor Rights Forum call for action from Western food retailing companies to pressure Thai businesses to improve conditions for the workers along their supply chains, after allegations of trafficking and slave labor involving Burmese migrants were made public

India and Burma to finalise a memorandum of understanding for cross border bus service, which aims to strengthen relations between the two countries

 

International

Aid coalition highlights the need to continue humanitarian assistance for internally displaced persons in Kachin and northern Shan States, until a safe return and resettlement can be guaranteed

US delegation led by the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, Tom Malinowski discuss 2015 electoral reform with representatives from NLD and Karen State Progressive Party in in Hpa-an, Karen State

Central Bank of Myanmar to grant licences to foreign banks by September 2014, although some restrictions will still apply

 

Opinion

Burma: Why does battles maintain in Shan State?
By Zin Linn
Asian Tribune

Is the EU Supporting Authoritarianism in Myanmar?
By Yola Verbruggen
The Diplomat

Proportional Representation in Burma: More Divisive Than Inclusive
By Tom Lochery
The Irrawaddy

Latest from the Blog

World Refugee Day is a Timely Reminder that the Rights of Refugees Must Be Respected
By Burma Partnership

 

Actions

People in Rezua and Matupi, Chin State, stage peaceful protests to call for an immediate end to sexual violence against ethnic women by the Burma Army

Statements and Press Releases

Myanmar: Take Immediate Steps to Safeguard Against Torture
By Amnesty International

Myanmar Must Immediately Allow Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and All Humanitarian Aid Organizations to Resume Full Scale Operations in Rakhine State
By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

ASEAN Community will Be a Failure Without Regional Rights Protections: ASEAN MPs Call for Independence and Strengthened Mandate for Regional Human Rights Commission
By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

Burma Campaign UK Wins Appeal Against Decision to Keep Burma Army Training Details Secret
By Burma Campaign UK

European Karen Network Special Tribute to General Saw Tamla Baw, Former President of the KNU
By European Karen Network

Fortify Rights Executive Director Wins 2014 Echoing Green Fellowship
By Fortify Rights

အခ်ိဳးက် ကုိယ္စားျပဳစနစ္(PR)ကို ျပည္နယ္မ်ားမပါ တုိင္းေဒသၾကီးမ်ားတြင္သာ က်င့္သုံးေရးဆုိင္ရာ ထုတ္ျပန္ခ်က္
By National Democratic Force

 

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