December 16, 2014

Statement by Karen Community Based Organizations

Welcoming the Release By The International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School of, “War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity in Eastern Myanmar”

It’s Time For Justice

The Karen people have suffered decades of abuse at the hands of the various forms of the Burmese dictatorship and Burmese military.  We have grown up witnessing rape, murder, forced labor, destruction of villages, bombing of civilians and a wide variety of other human rights abuses.  We know there are those who ordered those abuses who continue to serve in the highest levels of the Government of Burma and in the Burmese military.  We live this experience.  We continue to seek a full investigation and the prosecution of those responsible.

This long held position was once again proven well founded with the release of the Legal Memorandum by the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School released 7 November 2014, entitled “War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity in Eastern Myanmar”. This four year investigation found clear evidence of attacking civilians, torture, displacing and forcible transfer of civilians, destruction and seizing of property, pillage, murder and execution, enslavement, rape and persecution during the three year offensive in Karen State investigated. We as CBOs have documented numerous additional human rights abuses over a much longer period.  The study by Harvard University’s International Human Rights Clinic, a highly respected and awarded institution, proves once again that the Burmese military has no respect for the ethnic people of Burma and has been operating with impunity against our people and far outside the international laws, treaties, and norms.

There were three commanders of the military at the time of the offensive studied by Harvard found to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity:

  • Major General Ko Ko, the commander of Southern Command during the Offensive, and currently Myanmar’s Home Affairs Minister;
  • Brigadier General Khin Zaw Oo, the commander of LID(Light Infantry Division) 66 during the Offensive until May 2006, and currently commander of Myanmar Army Bureau of Special Operations (“BSO”) 4; and
  • Brigadier General Maung Maung Aye, the commander of LID 66 during the Offensive after May 2006, who was subsequently promoted to be the Naypyidaw Regional Commander. There are unconfirmed reports that he has since retired.” (pages 1 and 2 of the report)

We know there are many more commanders and soldiers who are guilty of similar conduct.  We believe that in order to gain a peaceful and democratic Burma these men and others like them must be held accountable. Naw K’nyaw Paw, Secretary of the Karen Women’s Organization said, “We need a system of transitional justice.  We cannot move forward by ignoring our past.  Those that suffered at these men’s orders must know the truth and see justice. Their mothers deserve nothing less.”

The Government of Burma has never acknowledged that war crimes have taken place in Burma, or taken any action to hold those responsible to account. There is no justice, no process of genuine reconciliation and no accountability.

The fact that the Government of Burma has taken no action against the three senior officials despite evidence of their being involved in war crimes, sends a clear signal that there will not be domestic action to end violations of international law. It would be unimaginable for these people to remain in their posts in a genuine democracy. If the Government of Burma wants lasting peace, it must hold those responsible for human rights violations accountable.

Action to investigate war crimes and hold those responsible to account must come from the international community. The continuing failure of the international community to take action in relation to violations of international law cannot continue.

It is time for the international community to support the establishment of a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into violations of international law in Burma. This could be established by the United Nations Human Rights Council when it passes its annual resolution on Burma, expected in April 2015.

Karen communities around the world will be writing to their respective governments asking them to support the establishment of a UN Commission of Inquiry being included in the next resolution.

Groups supporting this statement:

1.     Anglican Karen Church, TN, USA
2.     Australian Karen organization
3.     Backpack Health Worker Team (BPHWT)
4.     Bowling Green Karen Baptist Church, KY, USA
5.     Burma Issue (BI)
6.     Ebenezer Karen Church, Dallas, TX, USA
7.     European Karen Network
8.     Federation of Trade Union Kaw Thoo Lei (FTUK)
9.     Finland Karen Culture Association
10.  Indiana Karen Baptist Fellowship, IN, USA
11.  International Karen Organization
12.  Karen American Organization, USA
13.  Karen American Organization of Connecticut, CT, USA
14.  Karen Association of Iowa, IA, USA
15.  Karen Community Association UK
16.  Karen Community of Arizona, AZ, USA
17.  Karen Community Association of Wisconsin, WI, USA
18.  Karen Community of Canada
19.  Karen Community of Minnesota, MN, USA
20.  Karen Community of San Antonio, TX, USA
21.  Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN)
22.  Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG)
23.  Karen National Community The Netherlands
24.  Karen National League Japan-KNL
25.  Karen Office for Relief and Development (KORD)
26.  Karen River Watch (KRW)
27.  Karen Student Network Group (KSNG)
28.  Karen Teacher Working Group (KTWG)
29.  Karen University Student Group (KUSG)
30.  Karen Youth Organization (KYO)
31.  Karen Women Organization (KWO)
32.  Louisville Karen Community, KY, USA
33.  Methodist Karen Community, KY, USA
34.  New Zealand Karen Association
35.  Rockford Karen Baptist Church, IL, USA
36.  Utica Karen Community, NY, USA

1.  Naw Zipporah Sein

For further information contact:

Naw Knyaw Paw –
Nant Zoya Phan –
Naw Myra Dah Gay Paw –

Related Posts