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UNCHR oral statements 2004

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Agenda Item 12: Violence Against Women

UN Commission on Human Rights
60th Session

Geneva, 6 April 2004 NGO Statement

Mr. Chairperson,

I speak on behalf of the Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development.

I would like to draw your attention to the on‐going sexual violence against ethnic 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’ military in all of 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” which documents more than 173 cases of rape and other forms of sexual violence, involving more than 600 women and girls committed by the Burmese troops in Shan State. Out of the total 173 documented incidents, in only one case, and I repeat only one case was the perpetrator punished.

Despite the repeated denials of the regime since the publication of Licence to Rape last year, and their attempts to block flows of information, reports of sexual violence have continued to reach SWAN from inside Shan State. SWAN has documented the rape of a further 150 women and girls in Shan State by the SPDC military since Licence to Rape was compiled.

Mr. Chairperson,

And now there is a new report, “Shattering Silences” just released by the Karen Women’s Organization. It 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 highranking military officers. Furthermore, 40% of those documented were gang‐rape and in 28% of the cases, the women were killed after being raped.

The pattern of sexual violence has continued during 2004, despite the truce declared during the ongoing ceasefire negotiations between the Burmese military regime and the Karen National Union. Since the first talk began in December 2003, four rape incidents have been reported.

Mr. Chairperson,

These report give clear evidence that: rape is officially condoned as a ‘weapon of war’ against the women in Shan and Karen States, and the Burmese military regime has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the form of sexual violence against ethnic women.

Sexual violence of ethnic Shan, Karen and other ethnic women by the SPDC soldiers is still continuing until today, and the perpetrators go unpunished. It is evident that the military regime in Burma has taken no serious measures to improve the situation, despite the UN Commission on Human Rights adoption of resolutions each year on the situation of human rights in Burma.

The Burmese military “road map” towards democracy is only a public relation exercise.

Mr. Chairperson,

We urge this commission to not just hear us, but to listen and take concrete actions. The lives of women and girls from Burma are dependent on your political actions.

Therefore, we would like to urge the Commission:

  • To pass a specific resolution condemning the sexual and gender based violations by the SPDC military of women in Burma and;
  • Strongly call on the military regime to immediately stop using rape against ethnic women as weapon of war to control the local population and fully implement the resolutions adopted by the UNCHR since 1992.

Thank you Mr. Chairperson.


April 6, 2004

60th Session of the UNCHR
Geneva, Switzerland


Oral Intervention on Item 12 (a)

Violence Against Women

Worldview International
Delivered by Ms. Mercy Suanching

Mr. Chairman,

Thank you for the opportunity to speak. I am a member of the Chin ethnic nationality from Burma. I am here to highlight the human rights abuses faced by women in my country.

The Burmese military regime’s well‐documented failure to respect basic human rights has led to specific gender‐based human rights abuses against women. Such violations include state‐sponsored rape and sexual assault, forced labor, prostitution and trafficking, forced relocation, and political oppression.

As part of these hostilities, sexual violence toward women in Burma occurs with alarming frequency. Women are subjected to rape and other sexual assault in a variety of contexts. This type of sexual violence is experienced by women from ethnic minorities, women political activists and women political prisoners.

Mr. Chairman,

Women in Burma have been subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, imprisonment, and torture by the military authorities not only due to their political beliefs and activities, but also for simply supporting the struggle for democracy and human rights.

During imprisonment, women political prisoners are harassed based on their gender. They are not even provided sanitary napkins during their period or proper medical care when they are sick or during pregnancy in some cases. Moreover, in many cases, women are punched and kicked in their abdomen or are forced to stand for hours while having their period during interrogation.

Attacks and murders of women political activists were also witnessed and accounted for in the Depayin Massacre on May 30 last year where Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and her NLD members and supporters were brutally attacked by the thugs of the military regime. It was a well‐organized and premeditated state‐sponsored attack on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the members and supporters of NLD. According to eyewitness accounts, women were violently attacked, stripped of their clothes and jewelry, and beaten up. To date, the military authorities have not taken any actions against the attackers yet.

Mr. Chairman,

Although both men and women in Burma are striving for human rights and democracy, women activists have to encounter double risks due to their gender. There is no security and protection for them. Recent reports have highlighted sexual violence against ethnic minority women from Burma and this is a huge problem. But let us not forget the violence against women political activists for their political beliefs and commitment to the struggle for democracy and human rights.

I therefore strongly urge this commission to take the situation of women political prisoners in Burma into special account when you adopt the resolution on human rights situation in Burma.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


Agenda Item 14

Oral Intervention delivered by

Worldview International Foundation
60th Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights
Geneva, Switzerland

April 13, 2003
Mr. Chairperson,

Thank you for allowing me to speak. My name is Lway Cherry. I am a member of the Palaung ethnic minority from the northern part of Shan State in Burma.

Today, I would like to draw your attention to the human rights situation of Palaung people under the current Burmese military regime known as the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

Although the Palaung State Liberation Army (PSLA) has made a cease‐fire agreement with the SPDC since 1991, the Burmese military troops continue to commit various forms of human rights violations against the Palaung people. These include forced labor, land confiscation, and rape and sexual violence against Palaung women.

Mr. Chairperson,

In spite of the presence of ILO, forced labor continues to exist in Burma, especially in the areas of ethnic minorities. Three years ago in 2001, I had to do forced labor for the Burmese military troops. The army ordered our village to send ten people per day to build a road in Num Sum Township in Shan State. We had no choice, so I went with my friends to the construction site, and we had to carry large stones with our bare hands. At that time I was only 15 years old.

The stones were huge and heavy. For one stone, five of us had to lift and carry it. We were not given any food or water. We had to bring our own food, or sometimes had to eat only when we got back home.

Mr. Chairperson,

Rape and sexual violence against ethnic minority women have been widespread and systematic, especially in ethnic minority areas of Burma. Many Palaung women have been raped by the Burmese soldiers. However, these perpetrators have not been held accountable for the crimes they have committed.

Land confiscation has also become a serious problem in Palaung area. According to the Palaung Youth Information Center, 1,500 acres of planted land were confiscated by the military troops in Numsun, Mantong, Numkham and Kukhaing Townships between 1998 and 2002.

Due to these human rights violations, thousands of Palaung people have fled from their homes and become Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). Many of them have crossed the border into Thailand and become illegal migrant workers and refugees.

Therefore, I would like to urge this Commission to call on the Burmese military regime to immediately stop all forms of human rights violations including forced labor and land confiscation, and sexual violence against Palaung women and other ethnic minority women in Burma.

Thank you for your attention.


Asian Forum For Human Rights And Development (ForumAsia)

Oral intervention item 14: Specific Groups and Individuals

60th Commission on Human Rights (Geneva)
8 April 2004

Delivered by: K’nyaw Paw

Displaced persons, refugees, and undocumented migrants are increasingly viewed as a new security concern and severely denied appropriate protection and assistance.

[The proliferation of low‐intensity conflict in the region, the continued repression toward ethnic and religious minorities, and the exacerbation of poverty have led to an increase in internally displaced persons, as well as an outflow of people into neighboring countries where they seek safety, survival, and livelihood.]

[Acehnese asylum‐seekers and undocumented groups in Malaysia]

Since the imposition of Martial Law in Aceh, Indonesia in May 2003, there has been an increase in the unregulated flow of Acehnese into Malaysia. Malaysia continues to deport Acehnese to Indonesia despite UNHCR’s recommendation that all Acehnese be granted temporary protection [until they can safely return to Indonesia].

Asylum‐seekers and undocumented persons, [including women an children], detained in Malaysia’s overcrowded immigration camps, are frequently deprived of sufficient food, water, sanitation, and medical facilities. Many detainees have been subjected to degrading treatment and separation from family members.

Forum‐Asia urges the Malaysian government to observe the international legal principle of nonrefoulement by stopping deportations of Acehnese and other asylum‐seekers to places where their lives are at risk, and to ensure the conditions of immigration detention centers conform to international standards.

[We also urge the international community to recognise that the humanitarian consequences of the on‐going conflict in Aceh are regional and appeal for renewed commitment from/of states in finding a non‐military political solution to the conflict.]

[Displaced People from Burma in Thailand, Bangladesh and India]

The State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) of Burma continues to violate the human rights of ethnic populations through practices of forced relocation, forced displacement, and forced labour. In addition to 1,000,000 internally displaced persons in Burma, there are over 400,000 people displaced in Thailand, with only 140,000 living in camps where they may receive protection and assistance.

Apart from 20,000 in camps, there are also an estimated 200,000 displaced Rohingya in Bangladesh, stateless under the Burma’s 1982 Citizenship Law. Another 50,000 Chin have sought refuge in India.

[Although fleeing discrimination in Burma, these groups are frequently regarded as “economic migrants” by host governments and do not benefit from protection and assistance.]

Forum Asia urges SPDC to cease its repressive policies toward Burma’s ethnic populations, including forced relocation, forced labour and arbitrary taxation, to restore full citizenship to the Rohingya. We ask the governments of Thailand, Bangladesh, and India to grant protection to displaced people from Burma within their border and not to forcibly repatriate them to Burma.

Displaced Persons in the Philippines

We also deplore the deaths of children due to hunger in the centers for internally displaced persons in Mindanao, Philippines. This massive displacement of over 30,000 persons last year was caused by a single military operation with unclear objectives. We urge the Philippine government to fulfill the right to food of children and others displaced by armed conflict, while pursuing peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Finally, Forum‐Asia urges Malaysia, Burma, Thailand, Bangladesh, India, and the Philippines to fulfill its obligations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women

(CEDAW) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) by protecting the rights of all women and children within its borders, including displaced persons, asylum‐seekers and undocumented migrants.

Thank you.

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