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Third Session of the United Nation Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 3rd Session
10‐ 21 May 2004
New York

Statement in pdf
Presentation in pdf

Statement

Agenda Item 4 (d): Human Rights

14 May 2004 NGO Statement – Submitted by Rights & Democracy (International Center for Human

Rights and Democratic Development)

 

Mr. Chairperson, Distinguished Members of the Permanent Forum, Delegates, Colleagues,

Indigenous brothers and sisters,

 

My name is K’nyaw Paw. I am one of the Karen people, an indigenous ethnic group from Burma. I would like to draw your attention to the on‐going sexual violence against indigenous women in

Burma perpetrated by the Burmese military regime, also known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

 

There have been a number of well‐documented reports on sexual violence committed by the regime’s military in Burma’s ethnic areas. In June 2002, the Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN) and the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) jointly released a report, License to Rape, that documented more than 173 cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence committed by the Burmese troops in Shan State against more than 600 women and girls. Out of these 173 documented incidents, in only one case, and I repeat only one case, was the perpetrator punished. Reports of sexual violence in Shan state continue to reach SWAN, despite the military regime’s repeated denials and its attempts to block the flow of information. Since the publication of Licence to Rape, SWAN has documented the rape of a further 150 women and girls in Shan State by the SPDC military.

 

Mr. Chairperson,

 

A new report, Shattering Silences, released by the Karen Women’s Organization, documents the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war by the Burmese military regime in Karen State. It documents 125 cases of sexual violence committed by the Burmese military troops in Karen State from 1988 until 2004, of which half of the rapes were committed by high‐ranking military officers. Furthermore, 40% of those documented were gang‐rape and in 28% of the cases, the women were killed after being raped.

 

Shattering Silences gives further evidence of the atrocities being committed against indigenous women by troops of the Burmese SPDC military regime. It also corroborates the findings of the SWAN report, that the Burma’s military regime is allowing its troops to commit rape with impunity, systematically and on a widespread scale. Both reports illustrate a strong case that war crimes and crimes against humanity, in the form of sexual violence, have occurred and continue to occur in an effort to terrorize and subjugate the indigenous peoples in Shan and Karen States.

 

This pattern of sexual violence continues despite the truce declared as part of the ceasefire negotiations between the Burmese military regime and the Karen National Union. Since the talks began in December 2003, at least four new cases of rape by the Burmese military against Karen women have been reported.

 

Mr. Chairperson,

 

Sexual violence against Shan, Karen and other ethnic women by the SPDC soldiers persists, and the  perpetrators go unpunished. The military regime in Burma has taken no serious measures to improve the situation, despite resolutions by the UN Commission on Human Rights and UNGA.

Without taking serious measures to eliminate violence against women in Burma, the upcoming National Convention on May 17, which the military regime claims is the first step in its “roadmap” to democracy, will be absolutely meaningless.

 

Only the restoration of genuine democracy and the protection of human rights can provide true safety for Burma’s indigenous women.

 

Mr. Chairperson,

 

Therefore, we would like the Permanent Forum to:

  • Strongly urge SPDC to implement an immediate, nationwide ceasefire and to withdraw its troops stationed in the indigenous ethnic states;
  • Adopt a specific resolution condemning sexual and gender‐based violations by the SPDC military against indigenous women in Burma;
  • Strongly urge that the military regime immediately ban the use of rape as a weapon of war, respect the Geneva Conventions, in particular the common art.3 that prohibits rape as a weapon of war and to fully implement the resolutions adopted by the UNCHR and UNGA since 1992.
  • Call on all international institutions operating in Burma, including UN agencies, to denounce publicly the atrocities committed by the SPDC against indigenous women.

 

Thank you Mr. Chairperson.

 

 

Agenda Item 4 (d): Agenda Item 4 (a): Social and Economic Development

18 May 2004

NGO Statement – Submitted by Rights & Democracy (International Center for Human Rights and

Democratic Development)

 

Mr. Chairperson, Distinguished Members of the Permanent Forum, Delegates, Colleagues,

Indigenous brothers and sisters,

 

My name is Lway Cherry. I am one of the Palaung people, an indigenous ethnic group from Burma. Under a series of military regimes in Burma, we indigenous people have become further marginalized, and are facing extreme poverty, environmental destruction and exploitation of our natural resources.

 

As we have stated at numerous United Nations Fora, the Burmese military regime, also known as the State of Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has been committing systematic human rights violations as an integral part of its strategy to control and to subjugate Burma’s indigenous peoples. The regime has prioritized military spending over spending on health and other social needs in order to maintain absolute power, and to control and exploit the resource‐rich indigenous states. I would like to draw your attention to the root causes of the economic and social situation in Burma’s indigenous lands.

 

Mr. Chairperson,

 

The primary root cause is the regime’s expansion and excessive expenditures on its army. Without any external threat, the SPDC has expanded the size of its army more than two‐fold to over 450,000 soldiers since 1988, with most of the troops being stationed in our indigenous lands. In Shan State, where I come from, there are now at least 150 battalions, with well over 100,000 troops.

 

According to the 1998 UNDP report, the SPDC spends an estimated 40% of budgetary allocations on the military. It also estimated military expenditure in Burma to be approximately 220% of combined expenditure on health and education which was under 1% of GDP in 1999.

 

Prioritizing military spending over health and other social expenditures is irresponsible and dangerous. As a result of the lack of funds allocated to the health department, and the mismanagement of the health sector in general, the World Health Organization (WHO) report in 2000 rated Burma 190th in the overall health system performance out of 191 countries.

 

Mr. Chairperson,

 

An additional cause of economic deterioration in Burma is the regime’s gross mismanagement of the economy. Inflation is estimated to have averaged around 20% in 2001. For more than a decade, it had averaged over 25% a year. The Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s Outlook 2002 report also mentioned that the SPDC “lacked the necessary policies, and its strategies are ad‐hoc and respond to a variety of problems in, at times, contradictory ways.”

 

We would like to state again that the root cause of the current political, social and economic crises is the current political system of military dictatorship. The suffering of the people in Burma, especially indigenous populations, comes from the military.

 

Therefore we appeal the Forum to call on States:

  • · To withhold all bilateral aid to Burma until there is a transitional arrangement for a nationbuilding process as a result of meaningful tri‐partite dialogue.
  • · To urge all UN agencies and international NGOs operating in Burma to publicly denounce the atrocities committed by the SPDC and demand immediate democratic reform in Burma.
  • · To urge ASEAN (the Association of South East Asia Nations) and all Burma’s neighbouring countries particularly, China, India, and Japan to review their policy towards Burma and to take a leading role in the development of the national reconciliation process towards a meaningful political change in Burma.

 

Thank you Mr. Chairperson.