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Report urges Gov’t to address past human rights abuse, act upon victims’ needs

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Front cover of the report, “In Pursuit of Justice” (Photo: HURFOM)
Front cover of the report, “In Pursuit of Justice” (Photo: HURFOM)
Min Thukha Aung – In order to achieve genuine democracy and national reconciliation the Burmese government must assume accountability for past human rights violations while providing victims with justice and appropriate reparations, says a new report released on July 7th by the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM).

The 90-page report, entitled “In Pursuit of Justice: Reflections on the Past and Hopes for the Future of Burma”, highlights the history of massive human rights abuses committed by the Burmese government’s military, the Tatmadaw, throughout Burma’s ethnic minority areas.

HURFOM’s most recent report analyzes various mechanisms of transitional justice that may be applied, in order to heal the shattered relationship between the government and citizens, and to rebuild trust amongst the people of Burma. The report emphasizes that appropriate mechanisms must be applied in regards to the specific needs and expectations of the victims, in order for the government to move through a peaceful and sustainable transition from dictatorship to democracy.

In Pursuit of Justice provides details of decades of human rights violations committed by the previous Burmese government against its minority ethnic populations, violations including forced labor, forced portering, unjust land seizure, torture, murder, and sexual abuse. Through the report, HURFOM states its aim is to hold a megaphone to victim’s voices regarding human rights violations, which continue to be committed through Burma’s minority ethnic communities. HURFOM believes it is imperative that victims’ grievances be recognized by the government, and provided protection from further violations.

“Burmese soldiers torture and abuse local residents almost every month. We wanted upper level [military personnel] to know, and want them to seek justice for us. Young people should not keep silent, but [must] help each other and raise awareness of the public. Even [within] this term of government, torture and abuse is still ongoing, so everyone should participate in finding a solution and seeking justice,” said Ye Township resident Nai Thein Thun, as highlighted in the report.

In a recent press release, Nai Aue Mon, program coordinator for HURFOM, states that the aim of releasing this report is “To strengthen the voices of Burma’s victims. Talking about transitional justice, at this point in time, may be viewed as an obstacle to current reforms; however, there are tens of thousands of victims of past abuse who have been ignored by the government. The government refuses to accept accountability for past human rights violations, and failing to pursue accountability can weaken the rule of law and fuel the government’s culture of impunity. Thus, the government should at least acknowledge the suffering of its people from massive abuses.”

According to the report, central to achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation in Burma “is the de-structuring of the [Burmese government’s] pervasive culture of impunity surrounding human rights violations against its citizens. While impunity, unaccountability, extortion and corruption continue to exist, there can be no repair of trust or unity within the society. Without eliminating all impunity, there will be no reconciliation in Burma.”

In Pursuit of Justice appeals to the government to provide justice and reparations to its victims, based on their needs. In the report, HURFOM provides suggestions of retributive and preventative actions to combat extortion, corruption, sexual abuse, forced labor and land confiscation, while calling for the government to safeguard ethnic communities from exploitation due to foreign direct investment. HURFOM urges international communities, NGOs, and donors to continue monitoring human rights abuse and take action against such violations; HURFOM calls upon ASEAN and its member countries to support victims of Burma’s ethnic communities to end human rights abuses by the Tatmadaw.

Nai Aue Mon adds that “through this report, HURFOM would like to suggest practical steps the Burmese government and international community can take in order to initiate the process for potential reparation and reconciliation mechanisms in Burma. By doing so, we can restore trust and equality amongst the people of Burma and the government, as well as establishing the rule of law for the future Burma.”

HURFOM was founded by Mon youths in 1995 “for the restoration of democracy, human rights, and genuine peace in Burma.” It is a key member of the Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma (ND-Burma), which was formed in 2004 and includes 12 member organizations.

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