Women Suffer in Myanmar’s 60-Year Civil War

Ja Aung Lu
Ja Aung Lu

This week marks one year of mourning by the Kachin minority in Myanmar for two Kachin volunteer teachers with the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC). On January 19, 2015, the bodies of Maran Lu Ra (20) and Tangbau Nan Tsin (21) were found dead at their house in the church compound located in Kongkha Village in Myanmar’s Northern Shan State. The young women had been brutally beaten, tortured, and raped. Since their deaths, no legal process, investigation, justice, remedies, protection, or rehabilitation processes have taken place for the victims, family members, and community.

The murders of Maran Lu Ra and Tangbu Nan Tsin are two among thousands of known and unknown cases―most, if not all, a result of the serious fighting that has waged in Northern Shan State since 2010 between the Kachin Independent Army and Myanmar Army.[i]

Located in Southeast Asia, Myanmar (also known as Burma) is populated by eight major ethnic groups: Kachin, Kayah (Karenni), Karen, Chin, Mon, Burma, Rakhine (Arakan), and Shan. Myanmar owns the “distinction” of being the only country in the world that has had an ongoing civil war for more than 60 years. The war is between the country’s army and ethnic freedom fighter groups.[i] The civil war has strengthened the military’s power, and it has allowed military dictators to rule the country. Thus, the brutal policies and lack of rule of law in Myanmar have jeopardized the peace and security of its citizens.

The army is known for using rape as a weapon of war against its ethnic people. Women suffer egregious human rights abuses. They are murdered, raped, sexually assaulted, forced into marriage, forced into labor, detained arbitrarily, and are victims of forced disappearances.[ii] Therefore, Myanmar has some of the most significant human rights violations in the world.

In 2010, there was a historic transition from a military dictator regime to a democratic government, also known as quasi-civilian government. The newly formed government is making some progress toward democratic reform in the central level and with international platforms. But, grave human rights violations have intensified in the northern part of Myanmar, particularly in Kachin and Northern Shan State, as well as in Rakhine State. The civil war has not stopped in ethnic areas. Apparently, the fighting resumed between the Kachin Independent Army and the Myanmar army in mid-2011 as a result of the failure of the last ceasefire agreement between them reached 17 years ago.

Myanmar became a member of the United Nations in 1948 and a signatory member state of six United Nations treaties and human rights instruments, namely Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1997, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2011, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography in 2012; and endorsed Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict in 2014.[i] Furthermore, there are national mechanisms, including Myanmar National Committee for Women Affair in 1996, Myanmar Women’s Affair Federation in 2003, Myanmar National Human Rights Commission in 2010, and National Strategic Plan for the Advancement of Women – Action Plan for 2013-2021 in 2013.

However, there is no systematic reform initiative from the government to hold accountable the perpetrators who have had impunity for half a century regardless of Myanmar being a signatory member state of the United Nations and establishing human rights bodies.[ii]

Regarding the murders of Maran Lu Ra and Tangbau Nan Tsin, hundreds of local and international human rights organizations have called for investigations and justice, including the U.S. embassy in Yangon, Myanmar.[iii] Hundreds of media agencies cover this news, and interfaith groups and local communities demonstrated solidarity to condemn the misconduct of Myanmar Army.[iv] The leader of the Kachin Baptist Convention submitted three letters requesting cooperation in the investigation, but there was barely a reply. The Kachin Baptist Convention established a 15-member investigation commission on February 7, 2015.[v] Despite this, there is still no cooperation from the government, including the country’s president, army, local law enforcement agencies, and government-backed women’s organizations and human rights bodies. As a result, sexual violence is widespread and the perpetrators “enjoy” absolute impunity from prosecution.[vi]

Therefore, 100 women and human rights organizations and civil society organizations and nine individuals, on January 19, 2016, issued the following demands:

  1. Sanction an official mandate and power of investigation to Kachin Baptist Convention for the purpose of revealing the truth of the fate of the two teachers;
  2. Request and invite the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to conduct an investigation in order to find out the truth;
  3. Have the incoming NLD government promptly execute the two aforementioned points.

By: Ja Aung Lu, a Humphrey Law Fellow from Myanmar and has a professional affiliation with The Advocates for Human Rights throughout 2016. Ms. Lu is the Program Manager of Equality Myanmar. Her responsibilities in this role include program development, team and financial management, staff recruitment, facilitation of trainings and events, data collection, and policymaking. For her work on the successful Stop Myitsone Dam Campaign, Ms. Lu received the Kachin Hero of the Year award in 2007. She obtained her Bachelor of Laws from Myitkyina University. As a Humphrey Fellow, Ms. Lu hopes to update her knowledge of human rights and laws, develop network-building skills, and enhance her understanding of NGO best practices, to help contribute toward the development of a democratic society in Myanmar.

Footnotes:

[i] Ending sexual violence in conflict through the establishment of Women and Girl Centres in Myanmar. (2014, July 4). In UNFPA Myanmar . Retrieved from http://countryoffice.unfpa.org/myanmar/2014/07/04/10056/ending_sexual_violence_in_conflict_through_the_establishment_of_women_and_girl_centres_in_myanmar/

[ii] PRESIDENT THEIN SEIN MUST BE CHALLENGED FOR FAILURE TO SEEK JUSTICE IN KAWNG HKA RAPE-MURDER CASE. (2015, October 12). In Kachin Women’s Association Thailand . Retrieved from http://www.kachinwomen.com/kachinwomen/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=138:president-thein-sein-must-be-challenged-for-failure-to-seek-justice-in-kawng-hka-rape-murder-case&catid=48&Itemi

[iii] US calls for Myanmar to probe killings of 2 ethnic Kachin women. (2015, January 21). In Fox News. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/01/21/us-calls-for-myanmar-to-probe-killings-2-ethnic-kachin-women.html

[iv] Funerals for two Kachin women found dead in Myanmar. (2015, January 23). In BBC News. Retrieved from http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-30945695

[v] No evidence over Kachin teacher murders. (n.d.). In Eleven . Retrieved from http://www.elevenmyanmar.com/local/no-evidence-over-kachin-teacher-murders

[vi] Burma Bows its Head in Shame on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. (2015, December 2). In Burma Partnership. Retrieved from http://www.burmapartnership.org/2015/12/burma-bows-its-head-in-shame-on-the-international-day-for-the-elimination-of-violence-against-women/

[i] Saw Ba U Gyi – Voice of Revolution. Paul Keenan 7–8 available at http://www.ibiblio.org/obl/docskaren/Karen%20Heritage%20Web/pdf/Voice%20of%20the%20Revolution_1_Saw%20Ba%20U%20Gyi.pdf

[ii] Country Summary – Burma. (2015, January). In Human Rights Watch. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/related_material/burma_7.pdf

[i] Weng, L., & Nom, N. S. (2015, January 21). Probe Ongoing, Autopsy Results Pending in Murder of Kachin Teachers. In The Irrawaddy . Retrieved from http://www.irrawaddy.com/burma/probe-ongoing-autopsy-results-pending-murder-kachin-teachers.html

 

 

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