Southeast Asia

Amnesty: war crimes continue in Burma’s Rakhine

Amnesty International released a report asserting that Burma’s military is continuing to commit war crimes and rights violations in the context of its campaign against the rebel Arakan Army in Rakhine state. The campaign began after rebels launched coordinated attacks on police posts in Rakhine in January. The report finds that the military has fired indiscriminately in civilian areas, and at times obstructed access to medical treatment for civilians, including children, injured by such attacks. Despite international outrage over the Burmese military’s attacks on the Rohingya people in Rakhine, it now appears to be using the same methods against the Arakan people. (Photo via Amnesty International)

Southeast Asia

Burma: soldiers freed in Rohingya massacre

Seven soldiers imprisoned in Burma for killing 10 Rohingya Muslim men and boys have received an early release—serving less time than the reporters who uncovered the massacre they were convicted of. The soldiers were sentenced in 2018 to 10 years in prison for the killings at the village of Inn Din, but they “are no longer detained,” prison officials told Reuters. The news agency said the men were freed in November. This means they served less than one year of their 10-year terms. They are the only people to have been convicted for atrocities committed during the 2017 military campaign against the Rohingya in the western Rakhine state, in which more than 700,000 were displaced. Meanwhile, the two Reuters reporters who were imprisoned on charges of revealing “state secrets” for reporting the massacre were also just released—after serving 16 months. (Photo via Reuters)

Southeast Asia

Burma sentences Arakan leader to 20 years

A Burmese court sentenced prominent Rakhine ethnic leader Aye Maung to 20 years in prison for treason and defamation stemming from a January 2018 speech made one day before deadly riots broke out in Mrauk-U township. Maung, a member of parliament and former chairman of the Arakan National Party, was arrested along with writer Wai Hin Aung days after giving "inflammatory" speeches. Maung is said to have accused the ethnic Bamar-dominated ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) government of treating the ethnic Rakhine people (also known as the Arakan) like "slaves." Seven people were killed the evening after the speeches, when Rakhine protestors seized a government building and police opened fire. Maung’s lawyers are unsure if he will appeal at this time, as a new trial in the case could result in a death sentence. (Photo via Myanmar Times)

Syria

Assad to The Hague —hope at last?

Even amid growing media portrayals that Bashar Assad has won the war in Syria, the first real hope has emerged that the dictator will face war crimes charges before the International Criminal Court. A group of Syrian refugees who fled to Jordan after surviving torture and massacres submitted dossiers of evidence to the ICC in an attempt to prosecute Assad. Although Syria is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, which establishes the court’s jurisdiction, lawyers in London are citing recent precedent set by the ICC in extending jurisdiction for the crime of forcible population transfers across international borders. (Photo of Aleppo following regime bombardment: 7ee6an)

Southeast Asia

Arakan Army escalates insurgency in Rakhine state

Over 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have been driven from Burma's northern Rakhine state into neighboring Bangladesh by the Burmese army's brutal "clearance operations," ostensibly launched in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in August 2017. But over the past weeks, the state has seen a new outbreak of attacks—this time by the Arakan Army, an ethnic Rakhine insurgent group opposed to the central government's Burman-centric rule. Ambushes by Arakan Army fighters have targeted both the Burmese army, or Tatmadaw, and the Border Guard Police. Fighting in several townships has left some 2,500 displaced. Last month, the Tatmadaw announced a four-month ceasefire in Burma's north to facilitate peace talks with multiple armed groups fighting for local autonomy, but that announcement excluded Rakhine state. (Photo via Asia Times)

Southeast Asia

Protest forced repatriation of Rohingya refugees

Authorities in Bangladesh and Burma must immediately halt plans to send Rohingya refugees back to Burma's Rakhine State, Amnesty International said. A first wave of organized returns could begin imminently, following announcement of a bilateral agreement between Bangladesh and Burma last month—which Amnesty says falls short of international obligations. "This is a reckless move which puts lives at risk," said Nicholas Bequelin, Amnesty's director for East and Southeast Asia. "These women, men and children would be sent back into the Myanmar [Burma] military's grasp with no protection guarantees, to live alongside those who torched their homes and whose bullets they fled." (Photo: UNHCR)

Southeast Asia

UN experts renew call for Burma genocide charges

UN investigators renewed their call for charges against Burma military officials suspected of carrying out a genocide against the nation's minority Rohingya population over the past year. The UN Office of Human Rights published an exhaustive list of atrocities and called "for the investigation and prosecution of Myanmar's Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and his top military leaders for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes." Since last August, 700,000 Rohinga refugees have fled into neighboring Bangladesh, and many have spoken of the Burmese military's attacks on their villages, describing actions that are considered crimes against humanity under international law. This August, a UN fact-fidning mission for the first time referred to the conflict as a genocide. (Photo: UNHCR)

Southeast Asia

UN report: try Burma leaders for genocide

The UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar issued a report urging the investigation and prosecution of Burma's top military generals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The Mission "found patterns of gross human rights violations and abuses committed in Kachin, Rakhine and Shan States that undoubtedly amount to the gravest crimes under international law," adding that there is likely sufficient evidence to establish "genocidal intent." (Photo: European Commission via Flickr)

South Asia

China expands Indian Ocean military footprint

In addition to stationing troops on the disputed islands it claims in the South China Sea, Beijing is rapidly expanding its network of commercial ports across the Indian Ocean. This comes as China is sending warships into the Ocean with growing frequency, leading to fears that the commercial ports could presage military bases, The latest addition is the port of Hambantota in Sri Lanka, acquired in a debt swap deal—the Colombo government was forgiven $1 billion in debt to Beijing in exchange for the Hambantota facility. China has also gained access to facilities in Burma, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the Maldives, Seychelles and Oman as part of the maritime component of its Silk Road trade and infrastructure initiative. While the Silk Road is an ostensibly civilian project, China has also established its first foreign military base at Djibouti, leading Western wonks to warn that Beijing is seeking a "string of pearls" network of bases across the Indian Ocean.  (Map via CIMSEC)

Southeast Asia

Demand ICC investigation of Burma over Rohingya

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (Burma) Yanghee Lee  called for the Human Rights Council to support an investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) into crimes against the Rohingya people. "I strongly recommend the persons allegedly responsible for the violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law be investigated and prosecuted by the ICC or a credible mechanism," said Lee. She  expressed disappointment that the Security Council has not yet referred Burma to the ICC, stating said that none of the investigations by the Burmese government have met international standards, and were likely initiated to distract the international community. (Photo: European Commission via Flickr)

UN concerned over new fighting in Burma’s north

With international eyes on the crisis facing the Rohingya in Burma's Rakhine State, the UN human rights rapporteur for the Southeast Asian country expressed grave concern over a sharp escalation in hostilities in northern Kachin State—where peace talks with ethnic rebels have broken down. Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee said she had received reports that the military had carried out aerial bombings, and used heavy weapons and artillery fire against civilian areas, forcing thousands to flee their homes. "What we are seeing in Kachin State over the past few weeks is wholly unacceptable, and must stop immediately,” Lee said. (Photo of Kachin Independence Army fighters via WikiMedia Commons)

Southeast Asia

Indigenous environmental activist killed in Burma

Indigenous and environmental activist Saw O Moo is reported killed in Burma's conflicted Karen State. According to the Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN), Saw O Moo was killed in an ambush by Burmese army soldiers while returning home from a community meeting to help organize humanitarian aid for villagers displaced by renewed hostilities between the military and the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). Saw O Moo was one of the most active local community leaders pushing for the creation of the Salween Peace Park, a proposed 5,400-square-kilometer protected area to be overseen by indigenous peoples. “We will never forget his dedication in the ongoing struggle to build peace and protect ancestral lands,” KESAN said in a statement. (Photo: Burma Link)