May 21, 2023, Comment off
Human Rights Violations and Crimes Against the Chin People: A Two-Year Assessment (February 2021- March 2023)
About five hundred thousand Chin people live in the northwest region of Myanmar. The Chin people are ethnically diverse with 53 tribes (2014 Myanmar census code book), speaking different languages or dialects. Besides, Chin state remains largely underdeveloped, with minimal physical infrastructure for healthcare, water and sanitation, education, telecommunication, and electricity. An overwhelming number of Chin people are living in extreme poverty, which depicts the very weak socio-economic status of the Chin people who strive to maintain their minimum standards of living. This weak socio-economic status is a result of persistent ethnic and religious persecution. The Myanmar military junta, also known as the Tatmadaw, continues to deprive the Chin people of their civil and political rights. Rapid militarization along with frequent violations of human rights have compromised the basic principles of human dignity and the rights of the Chin people in the form of inequality, discrimination, and disrespect.
It has been two years since the arbitrary seizure of power by the Myanmar Military on February 1, 2021. According to UN Human Rights Report, Geneva 3 March 2023, during these two years, ‘Myanmar’s military has created a perpetual human rights crisis through the continuous use of violence, including the killing, arbitrary arrest, torture and enforced disappearance of anti-coup opponents. The report further said that “tragically, regional, and global efforts for peace and restraint have largely fallen on deaf ears. The Myanmar military, emboldened by continuous and absolute impunity, has consistently shown disregard for international obligations and principles. Urgent, concrete action is needed to end this festering catastrophe. The military employs its so-called Four-Cuts approach – including through indiscriminate airstrikes and artillery shelling, razing villages to displace civilian populations, and denial of humanitarian access – to cut off non-State organized armed groups and other anti-military armed elements from access to food, finances, intelligence, and recruits (UN Human Rights Report, 2023).
Situation of human rights on the ground
Two years after the military coup, the Chin people in Myanmar were continuously exposed to frequent human rights violations. The violations ranged from civilian killings, arbitrary arrests, torture resulting in death, violence against women and children including rape and sexual abuse, forced displacement, suppression of freedom of expression and speech, and attacks on places of worship, among other atrocities. The Myanmar Military Council committed various human rights violations and crimes against the Chin people to maintain their power.
1. Extrajudicial killings
After the Myanmar military seized state power on February 1, 2021, via a coup d’état, the people all over the country took to the streets to protest. The State Administration Council (SAC) troops cracked down on the protests with rubber bullets and tear gas. Unable to stop the people’s desire for federal democracy and resentment against the illegitimate military rule, the SAC troops not only fired real guns and bullets at innocent people as if they were foreign enemies, but also attacked its own citizens with bombs, heavy weapons such as RPG, 40 MM, and 60 MM weapons, and with jet fighters. As a result of such violent actions, as many as 383 innocent Chin people were killed within two years.
2. Brutal Killing of Civilians
The SAC troops also killed 126 innocent civilians in order to maintain their power. These include:
- A 10-year-old child was killed on August 25, 2021, a 6-month-old child on May 22, 2022, and a 7-month-old child on June 18, 2022. These are just some of the underage children who died because of the SAC’s offensive attack and heavy weapons fire.
- Also on August 14, 2022, the SAC troops burned down Haimual Village and arrested the 17-year-old and 15-year-old siblings, killing them later while they were retreating from the
- On December 14, 2022, the SAC troops killed a disabled man and burned his body. Moreover, on November 22, 2022, a 56-year-old man with congenital disabilities was beaten to death and shot at least three times by the SAC troops.
3. Killing during peaceful protests
A total of 13 Chin people were killed when the SAC troops opened fire and suppressed the people who were peacefully protesting. Among them was an innocent bystander who did not even participate in the protests, a 25-year-old Chin male who was on his way home after attending a Bible College in Mandalay.
4. Gang rapes
The military committed intentional acts of violence against women including individual rape, gang rapes at gun point, and other sexual assaults. These violent acts targeting Chin women have often been committed by the troops during their operations in Chin State. Some of the crimes include:
- On April 1, 2021, in Kalaymyo Township, a mother and daughter living in Letpanchaung village were reportedly killed by SAC troops. The 15-year-old girl was believed to have been raped before she was killed.
- On November 11, 2021, a 29-year-old mother of three was repeatedly raped by three soldiers stationed at the Myanmar military camp in Aklui village, Tedim Township.
- Also on November 11, 2021, and in the same village of Aklui, a 35-year-old woman who was seven months pregnant was beaten and raped by two SAC soldiers.
5. Atrocities against Christian ministers
The SAC troops showed no respect for right to life and security for the main religion of the Chin people and killed four devout Christian ministers. Few of such incidents are:
- On September 18, 2021, the SAC troops shot and killed a Christian pastor who was helping to extinguish a house fire caused by their heavy weapons in Thantlang Town. When the body was retrieved and examined, it was discovered that the ring finger had been cut off and the wedding ring and watch had been taken.
- On September 23, 2021, another Christian pastor was arrested in Haka by the SAC troops and died during interrogation due to torture. His relatives only heard the devastating news on November 17, 2021.
- On December 6, 2021, a Christian pastor was arrested in Haka by the SAC soldiers and tortured during interrogation. Although he received medical treatment for his injuries sustained, he unfortunately passed away on December 9, 2021, as his injuries were too severe.
- On December 12, 2021, a Christian minister was arrested and killed by the SAC troops. His body was dumped near the Kanpetlet Hotel and recovered by residents.
6. Using Civilians as Human Shields
Since the beginning of its operations in Chin State, the military junta forcibly recruited civilians as guides, took them as hostages, and used them as human shields. In total, 56 innocent Chin civilians were captured as human shields and, of these civilians, 10 were tortured to death by the SAC troops. During the last two years, the major violations are reported as:
- On 15 May 2021, the SAC troops captured 15 civilians and used them as human shields during a military operation in Mindat, Southern Chin State.
- On June 5, 2021, in Mindat Township, SAC troops captured seven civilians and used them as human shields during a clash near Mae La Gone village.
- On October 21, 2021, SAC troops captured 14 civilians from Haka town and used them as human shields along the Hakha-Thantlang road.
- In November 2021, SAC troops en route from Kanpetlet to Saw in Magway Region arrested 2 Chin civilians and used them as human shields.
- On January 9, 2022, near Webula in Falam Township, the SAC troops arrested 5 civilians returning from farming and used them as human shields.
- On January 10, 2022, 10 civilians in Matupi Township, including a journalist and a 13-year-old child, were captured, and used as human shields, and later tortured to death by SAC troops.
- On December 26, 2022, in Mindat, a family of 3 who went to town for medical treatment were arrested and used as guides by the SAC troops.
7. Setting houses and buildings ablaze
The SAC troops, either mindlessly or deliberately, fired heavy weapons and intentionally destroyed and burned many residential and religious buildings. More than 4,300 buildings and residences/houses were burnt and destroyed in Chin State and areas inhabited by Chin people.
Some Arson attacks on residential homes
- On January 3, 2022, 121 houses in Thantlang Town were burned down by the SAC troops.
- On November 19, 2022, the SAC troops burned down 3 houses until they were reduced to ashes in Tibual Village, Falam Township.
- On January 7, 2023, 7 residential homes in Sawntaung Village in Mindat Township were destroyed due to air strikes on the village by the SAC troops.
- On January 9, 2023, 86 houses in Sekan Village, Kalay Township, were burned down by the SAC troops.
Some Arson attacks on religious buildings
After the military coup, no less than 60 religious’ buildings in Chin state were burned and destroyed. The SAC troops consumed alcohol, detained civilians, and tortured them inside 11 Church buildings. In addition, 5 Church buildings were destroyed by air strikes, and another 16 Church buildings by heavy weapons fire. Furthermore, they burned 18 Church buildings and vandalized 9 schools. Then, in January 2023, an air strike destroyed a Buddhist monastery and a residential house.
8. Arbitrary Arrests and Detentions
After the Myanmar military seized power, the military junta enacted unjust laws to maintain its power and to restrict the basic human rights of the people. Nearly 900 Chins were unlawfully detained and arrested within 2 years of the military coup. The SAC applied provisions from various laws to charge many of these detainees. Laws such as the Natural Disaster Management Law, the Anti-Terrorism Law, the Ward and Tract Administration Law, the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law, and the Penal Code were used to charge and sentence many Chins. A significant number of Chins were arrested without reasonable grounds. The SAC troops also carried out unlawful mass arrests with the intention of using them as human shields.
- After Rev. Thian Lian Sang was detained by the SAC for almost a year, he was sentenced to three years in prison with hard labor under Section 505(a) and 20 years under Section 49(a) of the Counter-Terrorism Law on December 7, 2022.
- On January 18, 2023, after 19 of the 24 people who were arrested for shooting in the Farthawk Ward of Falam Town were released, the remaining 5 were “remanded” in custody by the police station for 14 days with the statement from the police chief that they would be released on February 2 if they were not found to have committed any crimes after the investigation. However, with the unsubstantiated reason – “The preparation of documents is not yet ready”, another 14 days of “remand” were issued, and a lawsuit was filed under Section 52. Then, they were released on February 16, 2023, but are still under surveillance.
9. Home raids and forced displacement
The Myanmar military widely used the ‘Four Cuts’ strategy in its offensive routes into Chin State. Along the route of their offensive march, they invaded homes and looted and consumed oil, rice, salt, meat, and fish, as well as blatantly defecated on the homes, wrote profanity on the walls, stole, and robbed household furniture and items. In addition, they were stationed in residential houses of the Chin villages. Since the SAC soldiers were stationed on the hilltops of Tuphei Village, Khawmual Village and Hlanzawl Village in Falam Township, the civilians could no longer work on their farms. Moreover, the civilians had to leave their homes and hide in the forest for safety because the soldiers often entered the village to loot, arrest, and engage in various forms of misconduct causing damage or even kill those who they believed might oppose them.
There were almost 90,000 Chin people who fled from their homes to safe havens due to the Myanmar military’s torture and unlawful activities. Furthermore, over 40,000 Chin people fled to Mizoram, over 15,000 to Manipur, and over 10,000 to New Delhi and other states in India.
10. Indiscriminate deployment of Airstrikes and Artillery shelling
Myanmar military employed its “four-cuts” strategy, indiscriminately deployed airstrikes and artillery shelling, mass burnings of villages to displace civilian populations, and denial of humanitarian access. During the last two years since the coup, the following air strikes have been witnessed. Resultantly, Chin people have lost their lives, property, and livelihoods, and have been forcible displaced.
- During May 14-15, 2021, SAC troops used fighter jets and scout planes to attack Mindat town in southern Chin State.
- On September 10, 2021, during the battle at Lungler village in Thantlang Township, SAC troops conducted air raids using fighter planes, damaging 34 houses and Church buildings.
- On January 15, 2022, in Tedim Township, during a battle near Hiangzing village, SAC troops carried out air attacks using two fighter planes.
- On May 15, 2022, The SAC helicopter fired several rounds into the residential wards of Mindat Town.
- On July 2, 2022, civilians’ homes, Church buildings, and schools in the two villages of Mindat Township were targeted and bombed 2 times by the SAC fighter jets.
- On September 1, 2022, the SAC troops bombed Paletwa Town with a fighter jet.
- On September 20, 2022, approximately between 3:00 and 4:00 p.m., the SAC troops carried out two aerial attacks on a forest road between Sadu Village and Phokharoe Village in Mindat Township.
- On September 20th, 2022, the SAC recklessly attacked the forests where people travel on both sides of the road in Rural Area (11) of Mindat Township, once at 3:41 PM and once at 3:43 PM with a fighter jet.
- On October 17, 2022, the SAC army bombed two times with a fighter jet in the battle between Hakha and Thantlang Townships.
- On November 7, 2022, at about 2 p.m., the SAC army bombarded somewhere between Hakha and Thantlang Townships with 2 fighter planes.
- In November 2022, the SAC attacked the Chin resistance group members with 2 fighter jets and 5 military helicopters in the vicinity of Tibual Village, Falam Township.
- On January 1, 2023, the SAC military bombed the vicinity of Thantlang Town with fighter jets.
- On January 5, 2023, an air strike was carried out by the SAC military in Thantlang Town.
- In January 2023, the SAC military dropped 2 bombs with a fighter plane near Suantaung Village although there was no ongoing battle.
- In January 2023, the SAC troops shot and bombarded Palait Thwe Village in Rural Area (2) of Mindat Township although there was no ongoing battle.
- In January 7, 8, 21 and 23, 2023, the SAC military carried out a total of 8 airstrikes in Mindat Township.
- On January 10, 2023, the SAC bombed the Chin National Front (CNF) headquarters and family residences located on the Indo-Myanmar border with 5 fighter jets. Then, 2 jets bombed an outpatient clinic near the CNF headquarters on January 11.
- On January 28, 2023, the SAC carried out an airstrike with 3 fighter jets on Zinzae Village School in Matupi Township, Chin State.
- In January 2023, a jet fighter bombed somewhere on the road between Mindat and Matupi Towns.
- On February 25, 2023, starting at 4:00 in the morning, the SAC flew a fighter jet over Thantlang Town back and forth several times and dropped bombs near Thantlang Town and a nearby River.
- On February 26, 2023, at around 3:00 p.m., the SAC military attacked two locations in Thantlang Town with two fighter jets and one Mi-35 helicopter and dropped supplies with Mi-17 transport helicopters.
International commitments on human rights
Out of eight major human rights-related UN conventions, Myanmar as a State has ratified only three including UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), UN Convention on the Elimination of All form of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). Myanmar has obligations to take legal and administrative actions to support the UN Charter, the UDHR, the Declaration on Elimination of Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion, and the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Myanmar’s obligations are to enshrine these rights and freedoms within its national legislation and state institutions. Additionally, Myanmar is also legally bound to implement the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
The Human Rights Record of Myanmar in the 47th Session of the Universal Periodic Review held in July 2021 in Geneva, reveals continuous human rights violations committed with impunity that are in direct violation of the obligations under international law. Hence, the UPR Working Group in its report concluded the following actions must be taken by Myanmar:
- Consider ratifying the Convention against Torture, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Second Optional Protocol thereto and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination
- Consider ratifying international human rights instruments, including the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
- Conduct prompt, independent, and thorough investigations into all allegations of violations of international humanitarian law, including into conduct that may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity in Rakhine and Chin States, and all allegations of human rights violations and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice through transparent and credible processes.
- Acknowledge that sexual crimes have occurred in Rakhine State and other parts of the country, take concrete measures to identify perpetrators and hold them accountable and ensure healthcare and psychosocial services for survivors.
- Investigate large-scale human rights violations, especially sexual violence documented by the independent international fact-finding mission on Myanmar of the Human Rights Council,
- Take concrete action to hold the military to account for the systematic use of sexual and gender-based violence,
- End the army’s violations which target ethnic and religious minorities, while ensuring accountability for those violations.
- Conduct credible investigations into, and impose and enforce criminal penalties for, human rights violations and abuses committed by State security forces and non-State armed groups and end the recruitment and use of child soldiers.
Ethnic minorities have been victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and gross human rights violations committed by the Myanmar military for decades. Now, the Myanmar military is using the same methods in its illegal coup and openly committing serious human rights violations not only in Chin State but throughout the country. For Chin state where only approximately 500,000 people are living, the percentage of persons killed by the SAC troops is egregious.
Myanmar’s military era has created a perpetual human rights crisis through the continuous use of violence, including the killing, arbitrary arrest, torture and enforced disappearance of civilians, and sexual violence and displacement of coup opponents (UN OHCHR report 2023). According to this report, evidence shows that the military and its affiliated militias continue to be responsible for most violations, some of which may constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes.
The Myanmar military junta must cease these human rights violations immediately. The international community must prioritize supportive measures to end such human rights violations., Considering the concluding observations and recommendations adopted by the UN UPR Working Group in its 47th Session held on to Myanmar (mentioned above) we must work together to ensure that war crimes, crimes against humanity, and human rights violations committed by the SAC troops receive the appropriate justice. Accountability will protect the rights of life, liberty, and security for everyone within Chin territory and throughout Myanmar.