Annual Report: Myanmar 2013

Report
May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Myanmar 2013

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Republic of the Union of Myanmar

Head of state and government Thein Sein

Amid ongoing political, legal and economic reforms, the authorities released hundreds of prisoners of conscience; however, many remained behind bars. Security forces and other state agents continued to commit human rights violations, including unlawful killings, excessive use of force, arbitrary arrests, torture and other ill-treatment, and unlawful confiscation or destruction of property and livelihoods. Impunity for past crimes, including crimes against humanity, persisted.

Background

In April, Myanmar held by-elections, which international observers determined to be largely free and fair. The opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), won 43 of the 44 seats it contested and were allowed to take their seats in parliament.

In August, former prisoner of conscience Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was appointed as chairperson to the newly created parliamentary Committee for Rule of Law and Tranquility. In September, the National Human Rights Commission was accepted as a member of the South East Asia National Human Rights Institutions Forum, and in November it was admitted as an associate member of the Asia Pacific Forum, but concerns remained about its ability to act as an independent human rights monitor.

In November, Myanmar adopted the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, despite serious concerns that it fell short of international standards. Also in November, President Thein Sein authorized the ICRC to resume prison visits, and announced that the government planned to develop an inter-governmental mechanism to review prisoner cases.

The EU and Australia, Canada, Switzerland and the USA suspended most sanctions against Myanmar in the first half of the year, but arms embargoes remained in place.

Internal armed conflict

The government signed ceasefire or initial peace agreements with the political wings of some eight ethnic opposition groups, including the Arakan Liberation Party, Karen National Union, Shan State Army North and Shan State Army South. However, occasional clashes continued to be reported in eastern Myanmar. The armed conflict in the Kachin and northern Shan states intensified, with the armed forces using air strikes to target outposts of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) at the end of the year. The current conflict started after the Myanmar army broke its ceasefire with the KIA in June 2011. Attempts at talks between the government and the KIA did not yield positive results during the year. An ILO Action Plan on under-age military recruitment and the Joint Action Plan on children in armed conflict under UN Security Council Resolution 1612 were signed in June, and the authorities publicly released 42 child soldiers in September.

Villagers in areas of armed conflict, in particular in the Kachin and northern Shan states, continued to be subjected to a range of human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrest, unlawful killings, sexual violence, torture, enforced disappearances and destruction of livelihood.

  • In January, lawyers acting on behalf of the family of disappeared Kachin woman Sumlut Roi Ja lodged a case with the Supreme Court in Nay Pyi Taw. Sumlut Roi Ja disappeared after reportedly being detained by the armed forces in October 2011. Her husband, who claimed that he witnessed her abduction, was not allowed to give evidence. In March, the Supreme Court dismissed the case citing a lack of evidence.
  • In June, the army arrested four Kachin men who were tending cattle, for suspected ties with the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and the KIA. Credible reports stated that the men were tortured.
  • On 1 July, soldiers arrested 27 Kachin villagers for their alleged association with the KIA. Most of the men were quickly released, but Galau Bawm Yaw remained in detention. On 22 July, his body was discovered reportedly bearing signs of torture.

Internally displaced people