The Junta's Misrule In Burma
Burma is divided into seven states and seven divisions. The states are divided on the basis of Burma’s ethnic background which is geographically distinct and represented by major ethnic groups like Kachin, Kayah, Kayin, Chin, Bamar, Mon, Rakhine, and Shan. Seven divisions are designated for the Burman community who forms two-thirds of Burma’s population.
Burma has its own history of colonization and its freedom struggle. Burma got independence in 1948 from colonial rule and was a democratic country from 1948 to 1962.
However, democratic rule ended in 1962 with a military rule dictatorship by General Ne Win, who was made commander-in-chief of its army. In 1958, during a governmental crisis, Ne Win stepped in as head of the caretaker government. Widely unpopular, his government fell in 1960, but two years later he seized power again by military coup and thereafter ruled as virtual dictator. Ne Win ruled for nearly 26 years and pursued policies under the Burmese Way to Socialism with total dictatorship. After his political and official retirement in 1988, his successor Saw Maung continued junta rule in Burma till 1992.
Burma 8888 Uprising is known for demanding democracy which took place on 8 August 1988 and ended on 18 September 1988 with a bloody military action where thousands of lives were slaughtered by Burmese Junta rulers. In response to the Uprising, General Saw Maung staged a coup and formed the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC).
After years of political oppression and economic corruption and stagnation, the Burmese people began what was to grow into a full-scale rebellion. They demanded an end to one-party rule and the abandonment of the Burmese Way to Socialism. In 1990, after 30 years, Aung San Suu Kyi – the leader of the National League for Democracy was elected in legislative elections in 1990 by winning 80% of the national seats. Saw Maung was condemned worldwide for imprisoning Aung San Suu Kyi and thousand other political leaders.
Saw Maung was succeeded by Than Shwe in April 1992 as chairman of SLORC and released nearly two thousand political leaders including Aung San Suu Kyi. Although Aung San Suu Kyi was released from prison, she has been kept under house arrest till today.
In 1997, the Burma Junta announced that it would change the official military regime from State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) to State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) under the chairmanship of Than Shwe. Till today SPDC under the leadership of senior General Than Shwe continues the junta rule in Burma.
Human Rights Violations in Burma
The human rights violence in Burma under junta rule can be defined in three-fold drives known as “Three Bs” - to make ethnic tribes as Burmans, to convert ethnic religions into Buddhism and to impose Burmese literature and language on ethnic communities.
Burmanisation of Ethnic Communities
Burma is a land with diversity of culture, ethnic, language, faith and tradition was once known as “Rice bowl of Asia.” Burman, the majority community, has superior complexity in Burmese society, where ethnic communities feel ill-treated. Majority of Junta rulers hail from the Burman community, who with military power, impose Burman culture by destroying ethnic cultures, faith, tradition and practices.
Salai Za Uk Ling talks about Chin ethnic communities in Burma, “… systematic efforts were made by the Burmese military junta to eliminate the religion (Christianity), literature, culture, and traditions of the Chin people in order to assimilate them into a homogeneous Burman culture.”
A report released by Women’s League of Chinland published in Asian Tribune mentions Burmese Junta’s tactics to Burmanise ethnic tribes, “In addition to rape… Burma Army soldiers are promised 100,000 kyat to marry a Chin woman. Giving Burmese soldiers, who are predominantly Buddhist, incentives to marry Chin Christian women is part of the regime's strategy of "Burmanisation”.”
Proselytizing the Ethnics to Buddhism
Buddhism is known for its peace and harmonic nature of religion but Burma’s Junta have given it an ugly face. Buddhist Monks under the shadow and protection of Burmese Junta, involve in proselytizing ethnic communities, particularly of Christians, into Buddhism.
Residents of Chin state, where 90% of the population are Christians, have the practice of erecting cross on church and mountain tops. Military often will break down the cross and force villagers to construct Buddhist pagoda in the same place.
“Junta’s policy of alluring illiterate and poor ethnic communities with free child education has been regular practices to convert to Buddhism,” says a refugee the fact-finding team met in the Indo-Burma Border. “This sort of practice is more among Christian communities,” says Cheery Zahau – an activist.
Khonumthung News reports, “Many Chin youths have also reportedly sought work in the monastery-cum-orphanage. The orphans and workers of the monastery-cum-orphanage have to convert to Buddhism prior to admission to the institution.”
Imposition of Burmese Language on Ethnic Minorities
Destroying one's language and literature is a powerful tool to eliminate any ethnical identity. It has been reported that military regimes have forced ethnic people to study Burmese literature and speak their language.
Burmese refugees in one particular town in Indo-Burma boarder testified to fact finding team, “We are accused for using our Chin language in the church. They asked us to speak their language in the church.”
The forms of human rights violation in Burma number many but the denial of fundamental rights to live, speak and practice remains the same. Anyone can think of any form of human rights violation that happens to the people of Burma and its refugees in neighboring countries.
The present SPDC Junta regime claims its development work by constructing monuments, building and road construction in major cities and towns. Cheery Zahau reports, “Most of these constructions are done through means of forced labors without pay and proper food.”
Forced labor camp are a well known phenomena Burmese ethnic communities. Male members of every household and females in the case the males are absent are compelled to work in forced labor camp without pay and enough food. Failing to obey diktat of junta will only fall in the prey of junta rulers.
In the night in forced labor camp, juntas will allegedly rape the ethnic girls and women. A refugee girl reports, “One of her friend in force labor camp in Chinland was raped by a military in night. When she refused, the soldier bit the nipple of my friend and raped her savegely.”
Most of the seven states in Burma are situated in thick forests and hill stations. Means of transportation depends on foot porters. Forced porter is regular practice of Junta in Burma. Transit of military convoy will force ethnic villagers to submit to junta order. Without proper food, loaded with heavy loads, villagers will walk through forests, rivers and mountains, some time for five days and nights.
Female members are forced in the absence of male members and they risk their lives. Many a time they became victims of rape during forced porters.
During the journey, they take night shelters in nearby villages. Very often villagers are forced to provide food for military armies with demand of any food items. Many a time villagers ends up feeding military armies with meal items borrowed from others.
Democratic Voice of Burma reports, “A woman porter who fled into India also told DVB that there were 8 people in her group of porters and that they each had to carry army rations weighing up to 20 kilos and they were not given food either. Women porters were also beaten up and swore at like their male counterparts. They had to beg food at villages on their way home. The porters and villagers were not allowed to worship freely as they are Christians and the soldiers demanded fresh produce from their farms also.”
Forced Marriage is related to proselytizing and Burmanising Christians and ethnic tribes. A Burmese human rights activist base at Mizoram says, “SPDC have policy to promote Burmese military if marries a Chin Christian women.”
“Due to extreme poverty, many ethnic women trapped in marrying military armies not of their choice but compel and force,” says a villager.
In the drive to ethnic cleaning, the junta have used the tool of raping ethnic women. South China Morning Post reports on February 23, 1980, “The Burmese Army, with 300,000 troops, has for the last 35 years effectively been a school for rape and ethnic cleansing of women from ethnic minorities. Many girls living in the southern panhandle have continued to be raped by soldiers after the signing of a cease-fire between the New Mon State Party and the junta in June 1995.”
Among the Burmese public, ethnic minorities suffer most. A report says, “Rape by the Burmese military, particularly against ethnic minority women, is institutional and endemic throughout areas of conflict in Burma. However, the government does not provide protection for these women.”
In the case of rape, the military junta has not left any legal system to file a case against culprits. The rape victims in most casesare despised by their own communities which has led many rape victims to turn into professional prostitutes.
The lives of young Burmese are not safe at all. Many fall in the prey of Burmese Junta armies. Women’s League of Chinland reports, “Chin Women are not safe in their fields nor in their own homes… Burmese soldiers destroy Chin women's lives ... As the military presence increased, so did sexual crimes in Chin State.”
Shan Human Rights Foundation reports an awful incident, “On September 15, 1997, 120 troops led by Capt. Htun Mya found 42 women and 57 men hiding in the forest in Kunhing Township. The troops gang-raped all the women for two days and two nights. Afterwards, the soldiers reportedly killed all the 99 villagers.”
Child solders in Burma’s Junta regime are another form of violating human rights. Burma is believed to have more child soldiers than any other country in the world. The overwhelming majority of Burma's child soldiers are found in Burma's national army, the Tatmadaw Kyi, which forcibly recruits children as young as eleven. These children are subject to beatings and systematic humiliation during training. Once deployed, they must engage in combat, participate in human rights abuses against civilians, and are frequently beaten and abused by their commanders and cheated of their wages. Refused contact with their families and facing severe reprisals if they try to escape, these children endure a harsh and isolated existence.
Fundamental right to profess and propagate one's chosen faith and religion is absent in Junta rule in Burma. Religious persecution is more often carried out amongst Christian minorities. Many of the arrests and attacks are not reported but remain in prison for months and years without trial.
The SPDC regime has ceased granting any permission to construct church buildings while destroying churches and construction of pagodas is allowed or forced under junta encouragement. Conducting Christian gatherings for prayer and worship other than church is prohibited, anyone violating these rules can face imprisonment.
The Chins are ninety per cent Christians, and have faced religious persecution in various forms for decades. Chin Christians suffer persecution on two counts - ethnicity and religion. Asian Tribune reports, “If you are double C, being a Chin and being a Christian, you have nothing in Burma, not a bright future at all”
Removal of Freedom of Speech and Expression
To have supreme control, taking away the freedom of speech, expression and formation of union and party is the powerful tool that military regimes have adopted.
Whatever the taste may it be, the rules and orders from junta has to be obeyed. A freedom of speech and expression to question will only end up in junta harassment and imprisonment.
Keep the mouth shut and suffer silently is the culture imposed on every citizen of Burma by junta rulers in last forty or more years. That is exactly what fact finding found out while questioning.
Tax imposition on Those working abroad
The anti-Junta public are kept away from linkage with global communities. Forming unions, political parties and human rights activities are in total control of junta rulers.
The illusion of ignorance is the tool military rulers use most in Burma. The capable and future young geniuses are imposed with heavy taxes when they go aboard for jobs. An activist reported, “Monthly taxes are imposed on any Burmese geniuses go aboard for job.”
The military rule has resulted in making Burma one of the poorest countries in the world, while the rich and military supporters possess unimaginable wealth. An activist reports, “Many Burmese military officials send their children to colleges and schools in Singapore by flight on daily basis.” Whereas the general public live below the poverty line.
Every increase in daily living cost makes the lives of general public wretched. It is reported that many ethnic villagers had to flee to neighboring countries like India, Malaysia, Thailand and Lau to escape from military harassment and to earn daily livelihood. Burmese refugees fleeing from their country do not make any differences in their poverty. Most of the refugees in the state of Mizoram, Manipur and Delhi live in same socio-economic condition.
In Indo-Burma bordering Indian states, refugees have to depend on their daily wages. Some work in road construction, stone crushing, hire labor, taxi driver, footpath sales, servant etc. Daily wagers earn an average of INR 30/40 (less than US$ 1) per day and they do not find enough work through out the month. They manage to get hardly 15 days’ daily wages in a month.
A refugee who runs charcoal mining from forest wood says, “I get one or two bags of charcoal in five days which will cost some INR 100. Local villagers harass us as we had to cut the trees in forest to mine the charcoals.”
A sad part of the story is that many Burmese refugees were involve in criminal cases such as like drug, arms and ammunition trafficking to survive their families. Most of these crimes are due to extreme poverty.
Many of the refugees in the state capital of Aizawl run illegal local rice beer brewing mills. They have been accused of spoiling the young lives by rice beer consumption.
Crimes Against Females
Female members of universal humanity at one point or other have been receiving end of sexual abuse and physical assault in many part of the world. This is very true to the female members of Burma’s public.
Most of the sexual abuse went without any form report and protest just because of infrastructure failure of judicial system in Burma. Most victims fear of deportation from hosting countries when the crimes are protested.
Khonumthung News report that a minor 13 years old Burmese refugee girl was attempted to rape by landlord – Kulbir Singh on July 20, 2006. When Burmese refugee communities reported to police, they were threaten, “Some residents of Uttam Nagar are reported to have shouted slogans like “Repatriate the refugees. Kill them all.”
Many of the Burmese rape victims turn to prostitution, not out of choice, but out of compulsion. Instead of applying balm on wound, general Burmese public despise the rape victims. When rape victims cannot face shame despise, most of them finally turn to the sex market to live and survive. They did not find life never easier there but mostly to face life threatening killer disease HIV. “The number of Burmese women and girls traveling to Thailand through Mae Sai to enter the sex industry is increasing. 60% of them are less than 18 years of age,” says Bangkok Post dated June 2, 1997.
Indrani Singh on her paper on Globalization and Human rights reports on 200,000 Burmese women trafficking to Karachi (Pakistan) and to sex industry in Thailand. writes, “The military and political situations in Burma, has led to an increase in migration, which has made women extremely vulnerable to trafficking for prostitution.”
Most of Burmese trafficked to sex industries are aged 12 – 18. Tools used in trafficking are “Deceptive job placements, abduction by agents and the sale of girls from hill tribes are all forms of trafficking.”
The Junta's Misrule In Burma
- » Published on September 29, 2007
- » Type: News
- » Filed under: