Human rights violations by the armed forces & the image of the revolution

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – December 03 Scenes
MoeMaKa, December 04 2022

Human rights violations by the armed forces & the image of the revolution


Killing unarmed civilians by armed groups is generally a crime and the killing of more than one person or mass killing, will roughly be defined as a war crime.


There is no dispute that the military council is committing both human rights violations and war crimes. Every time an armed group commits a human rights violation, it is not the case that it has become weakened or the public support decreases immediately. However, as the number and extent of violations increase, there will be more fall down politically and militarily, and then gradually weaken, eventually leading to total defeat militarily.


In reassessing the military that was born from the independence struggle in Myanmar, the military training was received from imperialist Japan with fascism and it did not start training with human rights and international law standards. In terms of political goals, it was a noble goal to be freed from colonialism, but in practice, international laws and ethics were not involved in training. 


In fighting with the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) and ethnic armed organizations in the Fasapala era (a period ruled by the Anti-Fascist People’s Freedom League—AFPFL), they fought by practicing the above standards and ethics. The Myanmar military, or “Tatmadaw,” has committed many human rights violations, whether relating to left-wing armed forces or ethnic minorities. In the fight against the CPB in the 1950s and 1960s, I heard that there was the well-known procedure not written in books or recoded in laws that if a rebel was arrested on the front lines, he would not be arrested alive and would be disposed of after interrogation.


It is said that when a famous writer from the CPB armed group was captured during the battle, the captain captured him alive and handed him over to the rearguard because he was that writer’s audience and respected him. It was said that the captain was blamed later by his superior for making the officers busy because he arrested that writer alive. These events are the customs of the Myanmar Tatmadaw, or, in other words, the military that has taken power in Myanmar politics until today. The current period is the worst and ugliest time.


If we look at the nearest events without looking back far, in 2017, 2018, and 2019, there were mass killings that led to the fleeing of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya in Rakhine State and cases that were charged as genocide in the international court. During the clashes with the AA, there were also many arrests, shootings, and killings of civilians, and the junta soldiers had committed many rape cases, one of which was brought to court and convicted.

Before the 2017/18/19 years, in the 1990s, the Myanmar Tatmadaw’s human rights violations in Shan State and Karen State, including the killings of innocent civilians and the rape of women, were documented in reports. 


The Myanmar Tatmadaw’s goal was independence, and it was not an army that imposed rules and regulations to respect human rights standards, international laws, and the rights of ethnic groups, women, children, and minors. On the other hand, it is a situation where they even think that their practice is right for them because they have been committing forced labor, such as porters, the killing of porters in some cases, beating, torturing and punishing civilians in rural and urban areas for the reason of breaking security rules throughout the ages.

The issue I want to talk about today is not about the Myanmar Tatmadaw but about the People’s Defense Force (PDF), which emerged after the coup. The general name is called PDF, but they give different names to their groups depending on the region. Overall, the forces attacking the military council, which are not ethnically armed, are called the PDF.

On the other hand, there is an urgent need for PDFs to have a system of rules and regulations to punish those who commit war crimes and human rights violations, just like the armed forces of the military dictator. A video clip that has recently gone viral depicts a woman who was accused of being a junta informant being tortured and shot dead on the street by PDF forces.

According to local news reports, this incident took place about 6 months ago, and it is assumed to have been committed by members of a Tamu-PDF Battalion. Because this incident involved torturing and killing an unarmed civilian, more specifically, a woman who was accused of informing, it can damage the image of the PDF groups.

In terms of numbers, it is not comparable to the crimes committed by the military council, such as killings and arson of houses, which ranged from hundreds to thousands. The assassinations, tortures, and killings are also committed against unarmed civilians, accused of being informers, dalans, and the pillars of the military council, so it is a violation of human rights and can be considered war crimes in the increasing situation.

Although it does not mean that NUG should be directly responsible for Tamu’s incident, if human rights violations and war crimes cannot be prosecuted, punished, and prevented from happening according to the policy, the reputation of the federal democratic revolution will surely be damaged.