Annual Report: Myanmar 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Myanmar 2013

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The number of people displaced by the ongoing conflict in Kachin state reached more than 75,000 by the end of the year. Many of those displaced were living in makeshift camps in KIA-controlled areas close to the Chinese border, and suffered from inadequate access to food, medical care and proper sanitation facilities. Humanitarian organizations were unable to provide sustained assistance to KIA- and KIO-controlled areas due to government restrictions.

More than 400,000 people continued to be displaced in eastern Myanmar. Another 115,000 Rohingya and non-Rohingya Muslims remained displaced in Rakhine state due to communal violence and abuses. Humanitarian agencies faced obstacles in assisting those outside official camps for the internally displaced, particularly in late October and early November. Camps were overcrowded and insanitary.

Communal violence

In early June, violent clashes erupted between Rakhine Buddhist and Rohingya and other Muslim communities, following the alleged rape and murder of a Buddhist Rakhine woman by three Muslim men on 28 May in Rakhine state, and the subsequent killing of 10 Muslim men in a revenge attack. The President declared a state of emergency on 10 June. Sporadic violence continued in July and August, and intense communal violence broke out again between 21 and 30 October when other Muslim communities such as the ethnic Kaman were also targeted. Official figures indicated that around 160 people died. The actual figure may be considerably higher.

A government-appointed commission was set up on 17 August to investigate the cause of the violence in Rakhine state. The commission was composed of a range of stakeholders, including former political prisoners and six Muslim representatives, but lacked a representative from the Rohingya community. Two of the Muslim representatives were relieved of their duties in November. The commission had not released its final report at the end of the year.

Land disputes

Protests against land grabbing and evictions erupted during the year. A parliamentary committee was established to investigate land disputes. The committee was reported to have looked into several hundred cases in the last quarter of the year – out of a reported 4,000 reports of land seizures submitted to it – and was due to present its findings to parliament in early 2013.

  • In the early hours of 29 November, police forcibly dispersed peaceful protesters who were camped at the Letpadaung copper mine in Monywa township, Sagaing region, causing severe injuries to some of the protesters, including monks. Protesters had been objecting to the expansion of the mine, associated land confiscation, and the reported environmental impact already caused by the mine. In December, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was appointed as the chair of a commission to investigate the expansion of the mine and the crackdown on protesters.

The Farmland Law and the Vacant, Fallow and Virgin Lands Management Law, both enacted in 2012, fail to provide adequate protection for farmers from having their land requisitioned by the authorities.

In March, the Ward or Village Tract Administration Act was amended to criminalize forced labour. In July, the government approved an action plan to end all forms of forced labour by 2015. Nevertheless, the practice continued, particularly in ethnic areas.

Freedom of assembly

In July, the government enacted the 2011 law on the Right to Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession (Peaceful Assembly and Procession law). The law required protesters to apply at least five days in advance for permission to demonstrate, and stipulated that: “The application should not be denied unless the security of the State, rule of law, public tranquility and the existing laws protecting the public are to be breached.”

Some who organized or took part in peaceful demonstrations without permits were charged under section 18 of the law, and faced up to one year in prison for each township entered without a permit.