Presentation of analysis, findings, and recommendations from Myanmar Day: Hearing from People on the Ground and Experts in the Region
6 September 2023
We, the undersigned nine Myanmar and regional civil society organisations, write to present to you the analysis, findings, and recommendations from the Myanmar Day: Hearing from People on the Ground and Experts in the Region event, which was organised by the signatories on 30 August 2023 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
On 30 August 2023, the undersigned organisations convened two distinguished panels under Myanmar Day: Hearing from People on the Ground and Experts in the Region: Public Hearing on International Crimes in Myanmar and Expert Panel on ASEAN’s Approach and Responses to Multi-Dimensional Crisis in Myanmar. The two panels aimed to highlight the experiences of survivors of human rights violations and to obtain recommendations for ASEAN leaders on how the regional bloc should move forward to address the crisis in Myanmar.
The Public Hearing on International Crimes in Myanmar presented a total of 11 testimonies of survivors of gross human rights violations – committed by the Myanmar military junta over the past 30 months since its illegal coup attempt – to a panel of regional human rights experts and general participants. We had collected ten testimonies from six women and four men survivors of the military’s atrocities in Chin and Karenni States and Sagaing, Magwe, and Mandalay Regions. We also heard an in-person testimony of a Rohingya survivor at the event. The Public Hearing was chaired by a panel of regional human rights experts consisting of Andy Yentriyani (Indonesia), Edmund Bon (Malaysia), Galuh Wandita (Indonesia), Muhamad Isnur (Indonesia), and Professor Dr. Sriprapha Petcharamesree (Thailand).
On the Public Hearing panel, the experts identified the following patterns of human rights violations by the Myanmar military junta: indiscriminate air attacks and bombings, destruction of food sources and valuables, collective punishment, killings, torture, rape, ill-treatment of detainees, genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, among other issues. The full list of responses and observations is provided for your consideration in the annex.
The second panel Expert Panel on ASEAN’s Approach and Responses to Multi-Dimensional Crisis in Myanmar discussed the regional bloc’s current policy and actions to the crisis in Myanmar over the past two and a half years, in particular the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus. The panel of experts consisted of Adelina Kamal (Indonesia), Eva Kusuma Sundari (Indonesia), Atty. Evalyn Ursua (Philippines), Professor Dr. Thitinan Pongsudhirak (Thailand), and Salai Za Uk Ling (Myanmar).
The expert panel recognised that the ongoing violence in Myanmar caused by the Myanmar military junta’s atrocities represents the lowest point of ASEAN’s existence and influence in which actions by the regional bloc do not represent the freedom and democracy values of ASEAN people and the ASEAN Charter.
The panel further acknowledged the failure of the Five-Point Consensus, in particular the cessation of violence on the ground and the provision of humanitarian assistance. The experts discussed that the current crisis has demonstrated broadly different patterns of violence compared to those in the 1990s and the 2000s in Myanmar. As such, ASEAN cannot take the same reactive approach but must immediately develop innovative and more effective measures to address the Myanmar crisis, namely an increased scale of involvement of ASEAN Member States and more direct actions on the ground.
The experts unanimously agreed that it is imperative to address the root causes of the problem, which is the military junta itself. Historical records have shown that the junta has no political will to end the crisis or even to follow the Five-Point Consensus. Therefore, the experts urged ASEAN to cut ties with the junta and not give them further legitimacy.
Further, human-rights based and victims-centred strategies need to be developed in order for the regional bloc to navigate actions beyond the Five-Point Consensus. In particular, to address the humanitarian catastrophe in Myanmar, the experts recommended strategic cooperation between countries sharing borders with Myanmar for more effective aid delivery. With the objective of truly achieving meaningful humanitarian benefits rather than political gains, the panel proposed that ASEAN shifts to a people-centred approach by building its humanitarian assistance on the existing capacity of locally-led humanitarian responders and local governance structures.
Your Excellencies, we present to you these findings and recommendations for your consideration in your respective country’s and ASEAN’s current and future efforts in attempting to address the intensifying multi-dimensional crisis in Myanmar.
We truly hope for your time and recognition of the voices of the victims and survivors who have endured gross human rights violations by the Myanmar military. We remain at your disposal to assist in developing an effective regional approach. Should any need for clarification of the findings and recommendations arise, please do not hesitate to contact Khin Ohmar (email@example.com) or Cornelius Hanung (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Annex: Public Hearing Panel’s Observations and Response
Presented to the Public Hearing on Human Rights Violations and International Crimes in Myanmar by the panel of human rights experts on 30 August 2023 in Jakarta, Indonesia
Today we, a group of 5 human rights experts from ASEAN countries, listened to the video testimonies from Myanmar: 6 women, and 4 men, survivors of atrocities from Chin, Kareni, Sagaing, Magwe and Mandalay Regions. We also heard the in-person testimony by a Rohingya survivor.
First, we commend the victims’ and survivors’ strength and courage as they persevered with tremendous tenacity. They chose to speak out under very difficult circumstances, many still living as displaced people and in a situation where their lives are at risk.
The video testimonies provided a clear picture of atrocities taking place right now, with graphic and difficult descriptions of atrocities against civilians – designed to break the spirit of civilians suspected to support the resistance movement. The attacks and acts of torture and violence, targeted families, husbands and wives, men and women, school children, school teachers, doctors, religious leaders, elderly etc.
Patterns of human rights violations in the 11 testimonies
Many of the testifiers spoke about the indiscriminate air attacks and bombings of civilian targets. This included:
Attacks were conducted in a way to create long-term impact on the survival of civilian communities, including destruction of food sources and valuables:
Many of the testifiers described instances of collective punishment, including targeting school children
Throughout the testimonies, witnesses spoke about those who were killed through bombing and air attacks, as well as more targeted killings. This included:
We heard the testimony of two rape survivors, and a political prisoner victim of torture. They described a pattern of torture, rape and ill-treatment of detainees, including the establishment of interrogation centers:
Through the 11 testimonies, we were able to get a picture of the long-term impact of the conflict:
Lastly, we heard directly the personal experience of persecution of a Rohingya survivor:
Observations on gendered patterns of violations, discrimination/vulnerabilities
In all conflict situations, we were repeatedly being informed that women are vulnerable to sexual violence, particularly in the form of threats and acts of rape. This is directly linked to the deployment of rape as a weapon of war aiming to emasculate the opposition, both individually and as a group or community. The deployment is deeply rooted in a patriarchal gendered structure in which ability to protect women’s purity symbolises the male capacity of guardianship.
Likewise in the situation in Myanmar, two testimonies particularly exemplified this situation, both were gang raped; one was seven months pregnant and the other one just gave birth one and half months before. Both were raped before their husbands who were also severely beaten up. Another testimony informed us that verbal sexual harassment and threat to rape were conducted against female detainee, and the threat of rape against one’s wife was used to obtain information from male detainee.
It is noteworthy that the impact of rape is severe, as the trauma haunts the survivors for lifetime and many also have to survive the dissolvement of their marriage or prolonged domestic abuse by their “emasculated” partner.
Whilst the rape and other sexual violence is the most striking feature of gendered patterns of violation during conflict/war time, there are also gendered impacts from other acts of violence experienced by both men and women, as well as other gender. Hence, integration of gender perspective is imperative in all interventions and remedies to be provided.
Observations around testimonies on mass atrocity crimes and breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law:
The testimonies of the survivors, victims and witnesses consistently point to grave, wilful and systematic conduct of human rights violations. These violations include wilful killing, murder, grevious bodily harm, assault, rape, sexual violence, torture, enforced disappearances, deprivation of liberty, unlawful and forced displacement, and arbitrary detention, among others.
The survivors and victims are civilians and include women and children.
The violations were committed by the Myanmar military and security forces including the police. They are under the control, command and supervision of the current administration of Myanmar, namely, the State Administration Council that is led by the armed forces general, Min Aung Hlaing.
The conduct of the perpetrators amounts to serious violations of Myanmar law, and international human rights and humanitarian law. These laws include the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Geneva Conventions.
In particular, the perpetrators have committed genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. They seem to have been committed with the intention both to eliminate dissent and opposition towards the Myanmar military rule and also to persecute civilians based on their ethnicity, religion and origin. Most affected are ethnic and indigenous minority groups in Myanmar.
The attacks reported appear to be part of a widespread and systematic attack directed against a civilian population. There is no defense, excuse or justification for this sort of conduct by the Myanmar military and security forces.
These findings also corroborate the reports made by bodies such as the United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (IIFFMM).
What survivors said about their hopes
We noted that survivors still spoke about their demands and hope for the future:
Recommendations to ASEAN, international community and civil society (inside and outside Myanmar)
Urging ASEAN leaders, ASEAN Chair: Indonesia President Joko Widodo, the international community, and civil society to act now to:
Panel Group Members