Tag Archive | Burma/Myanmar

No Outsiders to be Allowed to Investigate Burma’s Rohingya Genocide*

No Outsiders to be Allowed to Investigate Burma’s Rohingya Genocide*

Burma has refused entry to any members of the U.N. coming into their country to investigate the ongoing killing, abuse, and oppression that the Rohingya Muslims are facing, as an official has stated.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s government has stated that they will refuse to cooperate with a U.N. mission. Speaking to The Telegraph, permanent secretary at the ministry of foreign affairs Kyaw Zeya said:

“If they are going to send someone with regards to the fact-finding mission, then there’s no reason for us to let them come.” He also added that visas would not be issued to anyone coming into the country to work on the mission.

Based in the Rakhine State, there have been many claims and allegations that the Rohingya Muslims are victims of violence and genocide, however these have all been denied by the Burmese government who labelled the accusations as propaganda and fake news.

A report published by the U.N. in February found that babies and children were reportedly being slaughtered with knives during “area clearance operations”

Additionally, the report concluded that counter military operations carried out by security forces left Rohingya people subject to mass gang rape, ruthless beatings, and disappearances.

People in Burma view the Rohingya people as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and the Burmese leader, Ms. Suu Kyi, has been criticised many a time for not standing up and facing the Rohingyas, the population of whom exceeds one million.

After security operations carried out by the Burmese army last year, approximately 75,000 Rohingyas have fled the state of Rakhine and gone to Bangladesh. Allegations of abuse in the North of the country were looked into by the E.U., who called for a mission in March and appointed Indira Jaising, an advocate from the supreme court of India, in May, to lead said mission.

However, Burma insists that a domestic investigation led by the first vice president of Myanmar, Myint Swe, is sufficient and there is no need for any outsiders to get involved.

Last month, speaking in Brussels, Ms. Suu Kyi had a disagreement with the E.U. over the need and necessity to send an international fact-finding mission to Burma. She made clear her belief that this mission would not address the needs of the ground and that the country needs time more than anything else to recuperate from the distrust between these two communities.

She also believes that rather than making Rakhine a safe place for the Rohingyas, the U.N. resolution of having a mission like this would further increase the hostility between the two communities.


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U.S, U.K., Israel, China, Saudia behind Myanmar’s Rohingya Genocide*

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Buddhist Massacre of Rohingya Muslims Continue*

Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Silent on the Persecution of the Rohingya Muslims*

Modern Day Colonnialism: The Uyghurs versus China*

Myanmar’s New Western-backed Dictator, Aung San Suu Kyi*

Myanmar’s New Western-backed Dictator, Aung San Suu Kyi*

Suu Kyi disenfranchised a million voters before elections, and has declared herself above the constitution afterwards. What about that seems “democratic?”

By Tony Cartalucci

The Western media is portraying Myanmar’s recent elections as historic. One commentator described Myanmar as an “exuberant nation prepared for a new era of democracy and political freedom.” But one wonders what sort of democracy and political freedom can be borne of elections in which nearly a million voters were banned from casting their ballots and with the apparent victor already declaring herself above the law.

Sidestepping these inconvenient facts, the West is nonetheless excited about the prospect of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) taking power in Myanmar.

This is in part due to the fact that Suu Kyi herself, along with the NLD she leads and a vast network of supporting “civil society” nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have all been created and sustained annually by billions of dollars worth of backing from the United States and United Kingdom for years.

In exchange for this support, Suu Kyi’s long-standing proclivity toward “foreign investment” will lead to the wholesale feeding of Myanmar’s nationalized resources, industry, and infrastructure into the maw of the Wall Street corporations and institutions that have long underwritten Suu Kyi’s rise to power.

“Democracy” and “political freedom,” in this context, appear only to be convenient facades to hide a more obvious and logical explanation for the West’s current post-election exuberance.

“Democracy,” But Only When Convenient 

In reality, Suu Kyi and her NLD’s supporters helped disenfranchise nearly a million Rohingya from voting even before the elections took place.  Through widespread protests and threats of violence if their demands that the Rohingya remain stripped of their voting rights were not met, the ruling military-led government backed down from a scheme to grant the Rohingya minority long-sought after rights, including the ability to vote.

The BBC reported in their article, “Myanmar revokes Rohingya voting rights after protests,” that:

Hundreds of Buddhists took to the streets following the passage of a law that would allow temporary residents who hold “white papers” to vote.

More than one million Rohingya live in Myanmar, but they are not regarded as citizens by the government.

The BBC fails to mention that these “Buddhists” who “took to the streets” are in fact the cornerstone of Suu Kyi’s political movement, leading every major pro-NLD protest over the years including the infamous “Saffron Revolution” in 2007.

They and the violence they have demonstrated throughout the years, were instrumental in ensuring Suu Kyi’s uncontested victory in recent elections by ensuring demographic blocs were either barred from voting entirely, or intimidated sufficiently from voting against the NLD.

Suu Kyi Declares Herself Above the Law 

Additionally, in the wake of Suu Kyi’s apparent victory, she has literally declared herself above Myanmar’s constitution, vowing to make all decisions regardless of who is actually made president under the law.

The Guardian’s report, “Aung San Suu Kyi vows to make all the decisions in Myanmar’s new government,” stated that (emphasis added):

Under the constitution anyone with foreign children is barred from becoming president, in a clause seen as the military’s attempt to stop her taking power. But Suu Kyi, who has two British sons, suggested she would still be Myanmar’s leader.

Asked what she meant by stating last week that she would be “above the president”, Suu Kyi said:

“If I’m required to field a president who meets the requirements of section F of the constitution, alright then we’ll find one. But that won’t stop me making all the decisions as the leader of the winning party.” 

Asked if she planned to be president in all but name, she said “It’s a name only,” and after laughing added: “A rose by any other name.” 

Suu Kyi’s disenfranchisement of the Rohingya and flagrant disregard for the rule of law demonstrates the very dictatorial traits she has long accused the ruling establishment of for decades.

Whether Suu Kyi agrees with Myanmar’s current laws or not, her choice to arbitrarily and selectively observe some while disregarding others entirely – instead of pursuing change through proper, legal procedures – makes her indistinguishable from the alleged “dictatorship” she claims to be replacing.

In the coming weeks and months, if Suu Kyi’s victory materializes in her NLD’s firm grip on power, one wonders what other laws she will selectively observe or disregard. For Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, the military-led government at times formed the only protection preventing genocide at the hands of Suu Kyi’s ultra-violent saffron mobs.

With the diminished role of the military in government and Suu Kyi’s self-serving and selective adherence to the rule of law, her supporters likely anticipate a free hand in actualizing their genocidal ambitions versus not only the Rohingya, but all of their political and socio-cultural enemies.

Not only is the prospect of wider violence a concern for the people of Myanmar, but the rise of political order in Myanmar unwilling or incapable of stemming genocide spells chaos for its neighbors, particularly Thailand.

Myanmar’s Age of Disillusionment Has Begun 

Suu Kyi’s “promising victory” will inevitably deteriorate not unlike the initially promising victory of Thaksin Shinawatra in neighbouring Thailand in 2001. Shinawatra’s initial tidal wave of naive support and progressive expectations yielded to a reality of unprecedented abuses of power, the privatization and selling-off to foreign corporations of Thailand’s nationalized resources and infrastructure, humiliating geopolitical concessions to the United States, and unprecedented human rights abuses including the mass murder of some 3,000 innocent people during a 90-day police crackdown in 2003.

After over a decade of clinging to power owed mainly to substantial Western support, Shinawatra and his various proxies were finally ousted from power by a military coup. Thailand’s painful but necessary decade-long national nightmare helped disillusion the majority of Thais regarding the empty promises of “globalization” and Western notions of “democracy.” Today, there stands little chance of Shinawatra or a Shinawatra-like character ever again seizing so much power in the near to intermediate future.

If and when a similar awakening occurs in Myanmar is anyone’s guess. However, the paradox of Suu Kyi’s pro-democracy facade versus her undemocratic, inhumane reality, particularly her and her supporters’ abuse of Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, has become so apparent even the West is having a difficult time glossing over it.

Increasingly frequent articles like the London Guardian’s, Why is Aung San Suu Kyi silent on the plight of the Rohingya people?,” attempt to claim Suu Kyi’s role in what is essentially ethnically-motivated genocide is mere silence. In reality, Suu Kyi’s silence is complicity, and those carrying out atrocities form the cornerstone of her support base, representing millions of votes.

Suu Kyi’s trading in of her clearly disingenuous principles and the basic human rights of the Rohingya people in exchange for votes has raised concern even among some of the most indoctrinated rank and file across the West’s vast network of NGOs.

It will only become increasingly difficult to continue rationalizing Suu Kyi’s actions to fit her empty rhetoric and manufactured image.

As Suu Kyi and her NLD get their hands dirty leading – or rather misleading – the country, wider disillusionment will follow. Should the military or other opposition parties prepare themselves sufficiently, the opportunity to successfully and permanently dismantle the NLD and all its US-UK funded supporting networks, will reveal itself sooner than later.

Real progress in Myanmar will happen when the people of Myanmar themselves – all of them including ethnic minorities like the Rohingya – are able to more equitably utilize its vast natural and human resources for their own future, not that of a handful of special interests in the capital of Naypyidaw, and not that of a handful of special interests on Wall Street or in London.

Myanmar may believe it has shed dictatorship in recent elections, but it is clear they have only replaced one of local and very limited means, with one backed by immense foreign interests bringing with them centuries of experience in emptying out the wealth of other nations – including at one point in the past, Myanmar itself.

Source *

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Myanmar Two Years of Hard Labour in Prison for Asking for Religious Peace*

Buddhist Massacre of Rohingya Muslims Continue*

A Tragic ‘Eid for Thai Muslims*

Bush’s War on Terror in the Philippines*

Indonesia Welcomes Rohingya Refugees*

The Persecuted Muslims the World Ignores*

Myanmar Two Years of Hard Labour in Prison for Asking for Religious Peace*

Myanmar Two Years of Hard Labour in Prison for Asking for Religious Peace*

By Patrick Winn

A Myanmar Buddhist monk speaks over a public-address system during a rally against an outbreak of Buddhist-Muslim violence in central Myanmar. |YE AUNG THUAFP/Getty Images

In a country notorious for unjust prison sentences, this one is a doozy: two years of hard labour for urging “love and peace” between Buddhists and Muslims.

In Myanmar, where Buddhism is the dominant faith, anti-Muslim hatred has emerged in recent years as one of society’s greatest ills. This toxic phenomenon was the subject of a speech late last year by a well-known writer named Htin Lin Oo.

His message: hardcore racial and religious bigotry simply does not jibe with the Buddhist faith. The speech, according to The Irrawaddy news outlet, argued that

“if you want to be an extreme nationalist, and if you love to maintain your race that much, don’t believe in Buddhism.”

That was enough to get Htin Lin Oo sentenced to two years of hard labour in prison.

His offense under Myanmar law? Committing an act “intended to outrage religious feelings.” 

What’s more, though Htin Lin Oo is an acolyte of Nobel Peace Prize laureate and White House favorite Aung San Suu Kyi, among Myanmar’s most revered political figures, he was fired from his post as her party’s information officer in the wake of the speech

Criminalizing appeals for religious tolerance represents a dark low in Myanmar as anti-Muslim fervour sweeps the country. No Muslim is safe from bigotry. But one group — the Rohingya, who live along the coast near neighbouring Bangladesh — have taken the brunt of it. They have been violently purged and forced into ghettoized camps so bleak that hundreds of thousands have risked death to flee on rickety boats plying the Bay of Bengal.

Those purges were preceded by town hall-style meetings in which Buddhists openly workshopped methods for driving Rohingya from their homes.

But laws against outraging “religious feelings” never seem to apply when Buddhists are whipping up anti-Muslim fervour.

These laws also didn’t stop monks and their followers from staging a recent anti-Rohingya rally in Yangon, Myanmar’s largest city. And they’ve never stopped the face of the country’s anti-Muslim movement — an attention-seeking monk named Wirathu — from denigrating Muslims as over-breeding, violent fanatics bent on toppling the country.

As the monk once told GlobalPost: Muslims are “like the African carp. They breed quickly and they are violent and they eat their own kind.”


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Indonesia Welcomes Rohingya Refugees*

Indonesia Welcomes Rohingya Refugees*

By Marie Dhumieres

Rohingya migrants jump to collect food supplies dropped by a Thai army helicopter from a boat drifting in Thai waters off the southern island of Koh Lipe in the Andaman sea on May 14, 2015. – Christophe ArchambaultAFP/Getty Images

Marzuki Rami couldn’t believe his eyes when he first caught a glimpse of what was going on, some 50 meters from his boat. Like every other day, the 40-year-old fisherman was at sea that morning. It was two weeks ago.

“Around 5 a.m. we saw this big boat. There were people jumping off it, some already in the water. When they saw us, they started swimming towards us,” Rami remembered.

He admits he was a little worried at first.

“There were so many of them,” he said.

Still, he and the rest of his crew didn’t hesitate.

“We just grabbed them. One by one. They were a lot of people injured, who had been beaten up, some were fainting. And some, we lost sight of them. It was really dark.”

Many of them were Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority from Myanmar that is among the most persecuted groups in the world. There were also Bangladeshis, fleeing abject poverty at home.

Myanmar denies the Rohingya citizenship, and restricts their ability to travel and marry. They are a stateless people. Hundreds of thousands are forcibly moved into camps in Myanmar, unless they can afford to pay human smugglers to take them away on a boat. Many who do escape end up in death camps run by human traffickers in Thailand.

Rami’s red wooden trawler filled up fast. He tried to contact the sea police but no one answered. So he called some other fishermen. Six boats came and between them they managed to rescue 600 desperate people.

The fishermen all knew they weren’t supposed to help. At the time, the Indonesian government — just like the governments in Thailand, Malaysia and Australia — were adhering to a cold policy of towing the migrant boats back out to sea in the hopes they’d land somewhere, anywhere else. Human Rights Watch called it a human game of ping-pong.

“We had to do something” – Nursia, an Indonesian shopkeeper

The migrants had been at sea for weeks, some of them months, with barely anything to eat and drink. Pictures circulated of migrants jumping into the water to grab scarce food thrown from helicopters.

The Indonesian government, however, said that if it took in the Rohingya migrants, many more would follow. And that would create “social issues.” It warned the fishermen against helping them.

But here in the province of Aceh, on the northern tip of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, the everyday people who would be most affected by an influx of refugees didn’t agree with their government.

Rami and the other fishermen said they could not just stand by while the authorities did nothing. In total, the fishermen of Aceh have rescued some 1,500 migrants since the beginning of May.

Rami said he would do it again.

“They looked so weak, so hungry,” he remembered.

He and other fishermen were able to communicate with some of the migrants who spoke Malay, a language similar to Indonesian.

“They told us they had to drink their own urine because they didn’t have any water.”

Nurden Ali, another fisherman, said that the Indonesians gave the migrants rice but didn’t have enough plates.

“They were just holding the hot rice in their hands,” he said.

We’re all humans, we need to help each other,” Rami said.

The sentiment was the same on land. When news came that migrants had arrived, many rushed to the port, where the city government has been forced to accommodate those who have been rescued.

In the warehouses turned into dorms, giant piles of donated clothes are a testament to the locals’ generosity. Nursia, a 30-year-old shopkeeper who lives a few kilometres away from the port, said everyone felt “we had to do something.”

She said it was the right thing to do. “We have to be compassionate,” she said.

In Langsa’s city center, Andi, 24, pointed to piles of food and clothes outside a volunteer tent in a small park. He said donations have been abundant, and haven’t stopped since the migrants arrived.

“People feel we have to help fellow Muslims,” he said.

Most Acehnese are very religious — this is the only Indonesian province that has implemented Islamic law — and Langsa people are known to be particularly pious.

It’s not the first time Aceh has taken in Rohingya migrants. In 2009, several boats carrying hundreds of people landed here. At that time too, migrants were rescued by fishermen, and welcomed by the local population. Many are still waiting for resettlement or repatriation.

Human rights groups believe thousands of starving people are still stranded at sea, abandoned by smugglers. Indonesian authorities say the newly arrived will be allowed to stay for a maximum of a year, while their relocation or repatriation is figured out.

In the meantime, the international community is hoping to address the root of the problem.

At a meeting on Friday organized in Bangkok by the Thai government, the focus was on mostly Buddhist Myanmar and its refusal to grant the Muslim Rohingya citizenship. The United Nations called on Myanmar to remove restrictions on the Rohingya and grant them basic freedoms.

But Myanmar has so far refused. Incredibly, the country outright denied at the Bangkok meeting that it is the root cause of the problem.

“This issue of illegal immigration of boat people, you cannot single out my country,” Myanmar’s representative said, according to The New York Times.

Myanmar, which has opened up recently after decades of North Korea-style isolation, is expecting global aid and investment in return for its economic and political reform. It’s unclear if the government’s treatment of the Rohingya will have any effect on that influx of cash.

At the camp in Aceh, the migrants are just happy that, for at least this brief moment, they are safe. Alongside the Indonesian volunteers, they sang and danced. They clapped their hands to the beats of music. And they smiled.


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Muslims Arrested for Joining Terror Group That Doesn’t Exist*

Muslims Arrested for Joining Terror Group That Doesn’t Exist*

By Carlos Sardiña Galache and Veronica Pedrosa

The government of Myanmar, cracking down on the country’s minority Muslims, has arrested at least a dozen people on charges of belonging to a terrorist group that defense lawyers and security experts say does not exist.

The administration of President Thein Sein has refused to disclose any evidence that the “Myanmar Muslim Army” is real — raising the prospect that the government invented an Islamic terrorist threat to justify a new front in its longtime persecution of Muslims. The exact number of people arrested is unclear, but The Intercept has obtained documents and conducted interviews in Myanmar about three cases — one of them involves 12 people accused of having links to the alleged group, the second involves five people accused of plotting to plant bombs in several unspecified places in the country, and the third is against a man accused of funding the group. All of them were arrested between September and November.

“The accused have received training in Myanmar Muslim Army camps, which has been launched and is operating illegally,” reads one of the court documents obtained by The Intercept.

Officially, about 4 percent of the country’s population is Muslim, but the actual number is believed to be higher, perhaps as much as 10 percent. The largest Muslim population, the Rohingya ethnic group, is concentrated in Rakhine State in western Myanmar, while other Muslims are scattered all over the country. The Rohingya are the most persecuted group: the government has denied them citizenship for decades, and according to several human rights groups, they are the targets of an ethnic cleansing campaign that has helped prompt a desperate exodus by boat in which an estimated 300 people died in the first quarter of this year, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

But non-Rohingya Muslims also face discrimination even though they are citizens of Myanmar. In recent years, sporadic explosions of anti-Muslim violence have taken place outside Rakhine State. The Muslims accused of belonging to the “Myanmar Muslim Army” or plotting terrorist actions hail mostly from central and northern Myanmar.

After five decades of military rule, Myanmar launched in 2011 a process of political transition to what its generals have termed a “discipline-flourishing democracy.” A semi-civilian government made up of former generals was established, hundreds of political prisoners were released in successive amnesties, and the pro-democracy leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, was allowed to be elected to Parliament in by-elections held in 2012 after having spent 15 years under house arrest.

The transition has given the government a degree of international acceptance unthinkable a few years ago. In 2005, Condoleezza Rice, testifying at a Senate hearing to confirm her as secretary of state, included Myanmar in a list of “outposts of tyranny,” but in 2012 Barack Obama became the first U.S. president to visit the country, where he praised the transition process. Hillary Clinton has also visited Myanmar and admitted in her 2014 memoir that it’s “hard to resist getting breathless” about the country’s progress. The Myanmar government has even hired the image-polishing services of Podesta Group, a lobbying firm founded by John Podesta, the chairman of Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Nevertheless, improvements in political liberties for the country’s Buddhist majority coincides with a deterioration in conditions for the Muslim minority.

Muslims in Myanmar are widely framed within the Buddhist-majority country as foreigners, because a large portion of them are descendants of migrants from the Indian sub-continent. They are being portrayed by state officials and extreme Buddhist nationalist movements as outsiders and a common enemy, a narrative begun long ago, critics say, in order to distract attention from political conflicts created by the military dictatorship, which lacked popular legitimacy.

It was only when the Bush administration launched its “war on terror” in 2001 that Myanmar’s Muslims began to be presented as a potential terrorist threat; this was seen as a bid to win international favour at a time when the U.S. government was trying to isolate the military regime. Yet there was a glaring problem with the military regime’s portrayal of Muslims: there is no record of any actual terrorist attack by Muslims within Myanmar in recent decades.

Now, with the country in a period of transition applauded by the U.S. and other former foes, and with crucial elections to be held in November, the former generals who make up Myanmar’s government need more than ever to legitimize their grip on power, both in the international arena and among the Buddhist-dominated electorate. The emergence of a new terrorist threat gives new life to long-held claims by the military that they are the only guarantors of security in what they term their “discipline-flourishing democracy.”

Thien Sein, Myanmar’s president (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)


Soe Moe Aung’s whole family was asleep, when late on November 17, about six policemen broke into their house in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second biggest city. His mother, Nwe Ni Aung, recounted in an interview earlier this year that the police demanded the family hand over her 24-year-old son. She said neither the police, nor the soldiers who had surrounded the house, bothered to show them an arrest warrant. She didn’t see her son for about 10 days — he was in police custody and denied access to a lawyer — and learned only when his trial started that he was accused of belonging to the “Myanmar Muslim Army.”

“They accuse him of undergoing training in a camp, but I don’t think that’s possible,” she said in an interview in Mandalay. “He’s sick — he suffers from gout — so how could he have received any training?”

Soe Moe Aung’s lawyer, Nandar Myint Thein, is defending four additional suspects in the same trial in Mandalay; a total of 12 people are accused in the trial of belonging to the “Myanmar Muslim Army,” according to documents obtained by The Intercept. They’re charged under the Emergency Provisions Act, passed in 1950, and according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma) “commonly used to arbitrarily detain activists or criminalize dissent.”

Nandar Myint Thein claims the prosecution didn’t submit any “real evidence” and the accused signed confessions after days of torture in custody. She says most of the defendants didn’t even know each other before the trial.

“When I asked the prosecution’s witnesses [from the Police’s Special Branch] for evidence about the Myanmar Muslim Army, they answered that they couldn’t speak about it before the court … that this information came from above,” Nandar Myint Thein said.

In a recent interview for this article, the director of the Myanmar president’s office, Zaw Htay, defended the government’s position.

“The Home Affairs ministry has all the evidence on these activities, but we can’t make it public because this is a national security issue,” he said. When asked how the accused can expect a fair trial when the prosecution’s evidence is withheld in court, he answered,

“They have the right to appeal in upper courts.”

Zaw Htay declined to say how many people are believed to be members of the group — he said national security concerns prevented him from disclosing more information — but claimed

“there are many activities outside the country and they want to promote their terrorist attacks with some people inside the country, so right now we are doing a pre-emptive strike to protect ourselves against any possible attack.” Legal Aid Documentation Team, a civil society organization, claims that as of February, around 100 Muslims had been arrested on charges of terrorism since last year.

The existence of the “Myanmar Muslim Army” has not been confirmed by terrorism experts, human rights groups, or the U.S. State Department. Rohan Gunaratna, who heads the International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research in Singapore, is the only one to have mentioned it, though fleetingly — he wrote in a recent report that “there also have been unconfirmed reports about the emergence of a new group called Myanmar Muslim Army (MMA), which is reportedly using Thai territory for training Myanmar Muslims.”

A State Department spokesperson said in an interview that the U.S. government “does not have any further information” beyond Gunaratna’s reference. Zachary Abuza, a specialist in security issues and politics in Southeast Asia, said he had never heard of the “Myanmar Muslim Army.”

“Sounds completely fictitious to me,” he said.

I would doubt that any group fighting the state would even use the term ‘Myanmar’ as that legitimizes the regime.”

Myanmar is the name given to the country by the military government in 1989, replacing Burma, and the new name is contested by critics of the regime.

“Based on the name and the track record of the Tatmadaw [armed forces], there is a very high likelihood that their ‘confessions’ were extracted through torture,” Abuza added.

One of the three cases involves Khin Maung Shwe, also known as Yusuf, who is accused of helping to establish the “Myanmar Muslim Army.” The 44-year-old businessman was detained in Mandalay in October, but his lawyer, Aung Naing Soe, said the case against his client is founded solely on confessions extracted while in military custody from other detainees who gave his interrogators the name “Yusuf” and little else. Aung Naing Soe says there is no further evidence against his defendant.

The prosecution in these cases has the backing of the minister of Home Affairs, citing the Emergency Provisions Act. The Intercept has obtained the minister’s signed authorization for the case involving Khin Maung Shwe, and defense lawyers say the minister signed the same authorization for the Mandalay case. The Intercept has also obtained the minister’s authorization for a case involving five people accused of planning to make fertilizer bombs.

“That’s a big burden for the accused, because the court is afraid of not following orders from the minister himself,” said Aung Naing Soe.

In the context of Myanmar’s judicial system, the direct involvement of the Home Affairs minister isn’t an innocent matter of oversight, it’s an expression of the overarching power the military continues to exert over all aspects of life in Myanmar. The constitution requires the Home Affairs minister to be a member of the military, nominated by the commander in chief of the armed forces, which are constitutionally shielded from any civilian oversight. As the International Commission of Jurists noted in a report published in 2013, “political and military influence over judges remains a major impediment to lawyers’ ability to practice their profession effectively. Depending on the nature of the case, judges render decisions based on orders coming from government and military officials.”

Sam Zarifi, regional director of Asia and the Pacific at the ICJ, explained that “there’s every reason to fear for the rights of the accused to receive a fair trial” in these cases, noting that “judicial independence has been undermined by the executive branch’s undue influence and interference, in particular, in politically sensitive cases, including criminal ones.”

Another case in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city and former capital, involves Muslims allegedly planning to wage armed struggle. In September last year, five Muslims were detained over smuggling fertilizer. The prosecution claims the fertilizer was intended to fabricate explosives to plant several bombs in Myanmar. One of the accused is a shopkeeper who bought fertilizer from another defendant, according to his lawyer.

The lawyer, Robert Sann Aung, said the suspects were held by the military for three months and tortured to extract confessions. Like other lawyers interviewed for this article, he claims there is no evidence of a terrorism plot, other than the fertilizer itself and the confessions. When asked about his expectations, Robert Sann Aung gave little reason for optimism.

“I won’t win this case,” he said.

“I would win if the judge applied the law, but law is not going to be applied.”


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