Weekly Overview: Human Rights Situation in Mon State, Karen State, and Tanintharyi Region

March 6, 2023

First Week of March 2023

The Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN) released a new report this week, which estimated the total of internally displaced people in Karen State at over 500,000.  Documentation by the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) supports their findings as increased violence by the junta across Southeastern Burma continues to threaten the lives of civilians.

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Weekly Overview: Human Rights Situation in Mon State, Karen State, and Tanintharyi Region

February 27, 2023

Fourth Week of February 2023

HURFOM: Across Southeastern Burma, civilians remain in crisis. Internally displaced people (IDPs) who fled their villages in Karen State were again attacked by the junta while seeking safety. On February 19, around midnight, the junta air force shelled an area where IDPs temporarily sheltered in the southern part of Kawkareik, Brigade 6 of the Karen National Union (KNU). At least three IDPs, including a child, were injured. A local service provider team member confirmed that three individuals, Naw Hla Htwe, age 36, Saw Pha Kyaw Do, age 44, and a 14-year-old girl, were struck in the attack. 

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Weekly Overview: Human Rights Situation in Mon State, Karen State, and Tanintharyi Region

February 20, 2023

Third Week of February 2023

The year 2023 has continued to be marked with violence against the people in Burma. In Mon State, Karen State, and Tanintharyi region, civilians are relentlessly being attacked by artillery shells and the bullets of the junta’s indiscriminate firing. Destruction of property, including the burning of villages, is ongoing. Thousands more are being forced to flee their homes daily as military impunity, and a lack of international action only encourage the junta to commit more atrocity crimes.

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Weekly Overview: Human Rights Situation in Mon State, Karen State, and Tanintharyi Region

February 13, 2023

Second Week of February 2023

HURFOM: The Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) remains concerned over the rapidly deteriorating situation in Southeastern Burma. Villagers in Mon State, Karen State and the Tanintharyi region have repeatedly told fieldworkers that they do not feel safe or secure. As the junta continues to increase their presence in civilian areas, the cause for concern becomes all the more urgent. Across the second week of February 2023, the military junta committed more widespread violations with impunity. 

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Weekly Overview: Human Rights Situation in Mon State, Karen State, and Tanintharyi Region

February 6, 2023

First Week of February 2023

This last week, the solemn two-year marking of the coup, was a reminder of the tyranny that continues in Burma due to the junta’s systematic violence. War crimes and crimes against humanity are being perpetrated with impunity and unending force. While the United States, Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom announced new sanctions to mark the anniversary, these actions came too little too late for the thousands of people killed by the Burma Army. A referral of the military to the International Criminal Court is needed to ensure that there is an end to military rule. 

The Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) continues to document the severe violations against the rights and freedoms of civilians. In the over 730 days since 1 February 2021, HURFOM has reported that nearly 25,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in Southeastern Burma due to conflict between the junta and armed revolution organizations. After they’ve left, their villages are often scorched, belongings looted, and livestock shot and killed. In addition, more than 3000 innocent civilians have been arrested and detained. The numbers of those killed are likely much higher than HURFOM, and other documentation organizations can report safely. 

We condemn the ongoing human rights violations and call for immediate international intervention and for global actors to pursue accountability mechanisms at the highest level, which put an end to military impunity at last. HURFOM also reported that military affairs observers said that the junta’s declaration of martial law in many townships across the country signalled more brutal oppression in pro-democracy groups, civilians, and local resistance armed forces strongholds. 

This week, the junta targeted a 71-year-old local villager who lost one of his legs when he stepped on a landmine while repairing a water pipe near the cable-stayed bridge in Baykalwe village, Ye Township in Southern Mon State. Junta troops lay landmines to prevent their opponents from accessing bridges close to their camps:

“In many cases, the soldiers put the landmines just outside their camp’s fence for protection. We must be cautious about these unseen dangers while working near the battalions,” said a source who wished to remain anonymous.

“It is speculated that mines are often planted near military bases. Three of our villagers had serious injuries in the past, and all became disabled because of the attacks by Light Infantry Battalion No. 586. No group or authorities ever confess these crimes,” said another. 

This latest incident happened on January 30 at about 10 AM. The local social support team cooperated and helped transfer the victim from Lamai Hospital to the 300-bed hospital in Mawlamyine City.

The fighting continues to kill innocent people caught in the crossfire of the violence. The network human rights documentation teams in the region estimated that at least two residents were killed, 17 people were injured, and more than 4,000 people fled the indiscriminate shells launched by four junta bases in Tanintharyi Township:

“From January 24 to January 31, the junta perpetrated war crimes against local civilians. The fighting led to at least five injuries from my village [Banlamut] and four victims from our neighboring village, BawDeekam, three from Mawtone, another three from Uyinkam and at least two from Thamoke Chone village.”

The junta-backed soldiers based in areas such as Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 556, LIB 557, LIB 558, and Artillery Regiments Command No. 306 are the main perpetrators, according to the team receiving the military information from the local armed forces.

Weekly Overview: Human Rights Situation in Mon State, Karen State, and Tanintharyi Region

January 30, 2023

Fourth Week of January 2023

HURFOM: As the first month of the year 2023 comes to an end, the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) has continued to document the military junta’s impunity. This is evident in the widespread crimes which are routinely perpetrated against civilians. There is no reliable rule of law in Burma which would hold the soldiers behind the attacks to account. Villagers across Southeastern Burma are uncertain about their futures because they are surrounded by mass instability. The impacts of relentless civil war have led to a severe economic climate that has destroyed employment opportunities. Families forced to flee live in remote areas with their lives at risk daily as the junta increases their presence. Food, medicine, and shelter remain urgent for those living through crises on multiple fronts.

The conflict has driven people to the Thai border desperately for safety. On January 23, at 10 PM, in Three Pagodas Pass, residents fled to Thailand because combat had resumed. About eighty households left for Thailand during the reporting period. The majority have some documents or residence and work permits on the Thai side.  An hour and a half later, four government offices, including the General Administration Department office, were set on fire, according to HURFOM reporters. Fighting has continued to intensify, leaving locals worried about the junta’s use of airstrikes to suppress the joint armed forces.

“I’m terrified that the junta will use their airplanes to fire at us. If they use the jets, we will all be targets and in great danger. There’s nowhere to run. In our lifetimes, we have been forced to flee many times,” said a 50-year-old resident.

According to ground reports, about 400 families in Kyone Dow, Kanni, Thayettaw and Kaw Kyaik villages, Kawkareik, Karen State,  have been forced to flee to safer areas due to the indiscriminate firing of the junta’s heavy weapons into the villages. Many residents said the situation was intolerable as the Light Infantry Battalion 545 and 546 armed forces fired heavy weapons into their villages.

“Artillery shells dropped near my residence three times, and there was no time to collect anything. My husband managed to move the children. We started running away. It’s challenging because we left all the food and things in my village. Meanwhile, the monastery is helping. In the long run, if we can’t go home, it will be difficult to survive and live.” a 37-year-old mother of three children said of the tense situation.

There are 800 houses in Tharataw Village. A total of 4,000 people live there. A network fieldwork team explained that it is difficult to collect a needs assessment because everyone is fleeing. 

The military junta continues to target opposition forces. The people have overwhelmingly rejected the failed coup and remain active in their calls for the military to be dismantled. In response, the Burma Army has not hesitated to silence its critics violently.  At least five local civilians have been arbitrarily abducted by the secret police and military forces in the last five days in Thayet Chaung Township Dawei, according to families and friends of the detainees. On January 20, 2023, police stopped a minibus with fourteen passengers and abducted the driver, Ko Su Kan Nge, age 35, by accusing him of being associated with the local armed groups:

“The driver and the minibus owner were interrogated and arrested on the road to Dawei. The troops questioned the passengers and let them go later. It seems like they are targeting supporters of the Civil Disobedience Movement with informers and tracking them,” said a local.

Arbitrary killings remain a source of fear for many as the junta indiscriminately attacks civilians. A 60-year-old resident of Pala, who has been missing since January 12, was shot, and killed in Pala Township, Myeik District, southern Tanintharyi Region. U Loon Khin had been missing since the evening of January 12. His family said he left for a job and never returned. Approximately eight people, including U Loon Khin, were shot dead in Pala Town in the last 12 months. No one has received justice.

Weekly Overview: Human Rights Situation in Mon State, Karen State, and Tanintharyi Region

January 23, 2023

Third Week of January 2023

HURFOM: As the year’s first month comes to a close, the Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) continues to observe and document worrying human rights violations across Southeastern Burma. Thousands have been forced to flee their villages as conflict rages, forcing them to seek safety. HURFOM remains seriously considered for their safety and well-being. Our calls to the international community remain steadfast in calling for change and accountability. The internal structures for law and governance inside Burma cannot be trusted, as the military junta has hijacked all prospects for peace. Global justice pathways and consequences for the military junta are the only possible steps forward.

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Weekly Overview: Human Rights Situation in Mon State, Karen State, and Tanintharyi Region

January 16, 2023

Second Week of January 2023

HURFOM: It was another devastating week across Southeastern Burma where the junta violated international law again by deploying an airstrike in Karen State that claimed the life of a young mother and her two-year-old son. The Burma Army is encouraged to commit these atrocity crimes because they continue to face a lack of severe repercussions from the international community.

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Weekly Overview: Human Rights Situation in Mon State, Karen State, and Tanintharyi Region

January 9, 2023

First Week of January 2023

A New Year has begun, but for many, the lives of innocent civilians in Burma have not changed. The junta uses violence as a tool to weaponize submission and enforce fractured laws that do nothing but make a mockery of the justice system. Fighting continues unabated as armed soldiers continue to wreak havoc, destroying all in their path.

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Weekly Overview: Human Rights Situation in Mon State, Karen State, and Tanintharyi Region

December 26, 2022

Fourth Week of December 2022

HURFOM: Despite the Christmas holidays, the Burma Army has not slowed its offensives. The targeting of civilians continues in Southeastern Burma and across the country. The Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM) has closely monitored the scaled-up atrocities perpetrated against unarmed residents. Offensives remain unrelenting, and the lives of the most vulnerable are increasingly at risk amid food shortages and freedom of movement restrictions.

The military junta launched a coup two years ago and denied the results of the 2020 election by dubiously claiming significant mistakes with the voter list. The junta is planning to hold an election in 2023. The Union Election Committee, which is controlled by the military, has been collecting names for a new voters’ list via the General Administration Department (GAD). According to sources within the GAD, there is little confidence the new voter list will be accurate because of corruption within the Immigration Department which has been tasked to make national registration cards and a household list of voters. Some names hold two or three different ID cards. “If corruption cannot be eliminated, the voter list won’t be accurate,” said a source close to the township GAD.

It is worth noting that the junta has also been putting pressure on small or ethnic political parties. The UEC recently informed all political parties of an amendment driven by the junta establishing new membership numbers and requiring parties to pay a fee to the UEC.

“It has been a long time since they’ve checked to see if the people in the constituency and those on the household list are the same. Many have different household lists and don’t live in the township they are registered to vote in.”

Clashes throughout the region threaten instability as hopes for a return to normalcy feels all the more distant. Conflict broke out in Padauk-Gyi Village, Thayetchaung Township, Dawei. The junta burned seven houses, opened fire with artillery weapons, and killed a young villager. On December 18 at 10 AM, fighting broke out between the local People’s Defence Forces and the junta in Padauk-Gyii Village. According to the reporters, the military council army burned seven houses and two motorcycles. In the evening after the battle, the junta and their backed militias entered the road leading to the hot springs in Pe-Dak village. A witness said they fired indiscriminately with their guns. A young man was hit in the chest. He bled to death. Due to these new armed conflicts, at least 300 families and villagers are fleeing nearby areas who fear the junta’s indiscriminate gunfire.

Meanwhile, the abductions are creating a growing atmosphere of fear. In Kaw Dut village, Ye Township, Mon State, two young people were arbitrarily arrested by the junta at 8 PM on December 20: “The junta is patrolling our village day and night. There are no People’s Defense Force soldiers here. But two young villagers, our friends, who were using their phones at the public rest house, were abducted. They did nothing wrong. Their motorbike was also seized,” according to a close friend of one of the detainees. They were sent to the Lamine Police Station, a neighboring Town of Kaw Dut village, Northern Ye Mon State. The junta frequently demands ransoms for the release of their loved ones. Human lives should not have a price tag attached to them. They must be granted their universal human rights to live with dignity and peace.

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