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BURMA/MYANMAR: COMPREHENSIVE ACTION NEEDED TO HALT ONGOING MILITARY RAMPAGE

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27 March 2017 marked the first Armed Forces Day under the NLD-led government. Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief Sr Gen Min Aung Hlaing declared the military's firm commitment to "... the stability, unity and development of the country and monitoring to ensure that [the country] can walk firmly on the multi-party democracy path chosen by the people”. Despite such declarations, the Tatmadaw's behavior has consistently undermined the peace process, rule of law, and human rights, prompting UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar Yanghee Lee to report “that the situation is now worse than at any point in the past few years.”

Key developments in the past year:

  • Escalated conflict: Increased fighting in Shan and Kachin states, clearance operations in Arakan State, and fresh clashes in Karen State.
  • New displacement of over 152,000 civilians, bringing the total number of documented displaced people in Burma, Thailand and Bangladesh alone, to 564,000.
  • Worsening human rights violations against ethnic minorities in Kachin and Shan states: Extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, torture, and direct military attacks on civilians including the use of airstrikes and artillery shelling.
  • Unprecedented violence against Rohingya: Sexual violence, torture, burning of houses with residents held inside, killings of children and babies.
  • Perpetuation of impunity: Blanket military denial of abuses, refusal to allow independent and competent investigations into allegations of serious crimes, reprisals against witnesses.
  • Judicial harassment and/or arbitrary arrest of anyone who dared to criticize the Tatmadaw, including prosecution of 9 school students for staging an anti-war play.

It is important to note that the military enjoyed a budget increase of 175% during 2011-2017, and continues to benefit from significant formal and informal control of the economy. Moreover, the 2008 Constitution allows the military to perpetuate impunity, control key portfolios and exercise veto power over constitutional amendments. Comprehensive and cohesive action by the international community is therefore required halt this rampage, to ensure there is sustainable peace and democratic transition.

MILITARY BUDGET

Military spending has substantially increased by 175% since 2011, the year Burma transitioned to a nominally civilian government under former General Thein Sein: from K 1.2 trillion in 2011-2012 to K 3.3 trillion in 2016-2017.

After 1988, the Tatmadaw grew dramatically. Details remained elusive, but most sources suggested the regime spent at least 40% of the national budget on defense. After 2011, the military spending continued to increase over the years. This increase was partially hidden by a constant upsizing of the overall national budget.

The recently approved 2017-2018 budget marks a small decrease in cash to the military. While maintaining the military share of the budget at 14%, the overall reduction of the national budget means that the Tatmadaw will receive 12% less money than last year.

  Overall Budget (Kyat, Trillion) Military Budget (Kyat, Trillion) % Year to Year Difference Military % of Overall Budget
2011-2012
K 7.6
K 1.2
 
15.79%
2012-2013
K 13.0
K 1.9
+ 58.33%
14.62%
2013-2014
K 16.7
K 2.2
+ 15.79%
13.17%
2014-2015
K 19.5
K 2.3
+ 4.55%
11.79%
2015-2016
K 20.8
K 2.7
+ 17.39%
12.98%
2016-2017
K 23.6
K 3.3
+ 22.22%
13.98%
2017-2018
K 20.6
K 2.9
-12.12%
14.08%

CLASHES

Military clashes with ethnic armed groups, including with signatories of the ‘Nationwide’ Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), have increased in the last year, further escalating in conflict areas and resuming in several post-conflict zones. On 6 January, Sr Gen Min Aung Hlaing stated the army must continue to engage in military action because of “narrow-minded” ethnic leaders.

Clashes reported during the period include the following:

  • Apr 2016: Violence between the Tatmadaw and Arakan Army in Buthidaung, Arakan State.
  • May 2016: Hostilities resumed in Shan State with reports of the Tatmadaw using civilians as human shields and committing other war crimes against Ta’ang ethnic minority community.
  • Aug-Oct 2016: Tatmadaw ramped up attacks in Karen State.
  • Aug-Nov 2016: Tatmadaw attacks against KIA in Laiza and Myitkyina, Kachin State.
  • Oct 2016: Tatmadaw attacked NCA signatory SSA-S in Mong Kung, Shan State.
  • Oct 2016: Tatmadaw attacks against civilian population: Artillery fired upon Puwang village, Muse Township, northern Shan State.
  • Nov-Dec 2016: Increased fighting between the Tatmadaw and the Northern Alliance.
  • Dec 2016: Bouts of increased fighting in Kachin State.
  • Dec 2016: Clashes in Namtu Township, northern Shan State.
  • Since Dec 2016: Tatmadaw intensified military offensive against KIA in Waingmaw and Mansi townships, Kachin State.
  • Jan 2017: Clashes between Tatmadaw and TNLA in Namhsan, northern Shan State.
  • Since Feb 2017: Increased clashes between Tatmadaw and MNDAA in Kokang self-administered zone.

On 30 March, Aung San Suu Kyi acknowledged that reforms and peace have been slower than expected. “On the road to peace, sometimes we move forward or stop for a while, or we may even step back a little ... But we clearly know our goal, and we will move forward to achieve it.”

Full Brifing Note... read more...