A group of human rights researchers officially launched a website on Wednesday (1/11) that they hope will help victims of military violence in Myanmar obtain justice.
Since the army seized power from Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in February 2021, thousands of people have died as a result of actions by security forces seeking to quell pro-democracy resistance. According to the UN, more than 1.8 million people have been forced to flee their homes as a result of the military offensive, which critics say constitutes a gross violation of human rights.
War crimes have become easier to document in recent years thanks to the ubiquity of cellphone cameras and almost universal access to social media, where photo and video evidence can be easily posted and viewed.
But it is more difficult to determine who was responsible for the crimes, especially the generals and other high-ranking officers behind the scenes who made the plans and gave the orders.
Members of the Taang National Liberation Army gather in a forest on a steep hillside in Mar Wong, a village in northern Shan state, Myanmar, January 12, 2015. (AP/Gemunu Amarasinghe)
“Generals and lower-ranking officers should fear being brought to justice and imprisoned for crimes they ordered or permitted,” Tom Andrews, the UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, told the AP in an email.
“Research must move beyond simply stating the obvious – that crimes are occurring and linking those responsible to particular atrocities. “The victims of these crimes deserve justice and this requires the necessary research to hold those responsible accountable,” he said.
The new website, myanmar.securityforcemonitor.org, is an interactive online version of a report, “Under Whose Orders? — Human Rights Violations under Myanmar’s military rule,” compiled by Security Force Monitor (SFM), a project at Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute, to link alleged crimes to the perpetrators.
The project team compiled a timeline of senior commanders and their deployments, which could be correlated with documented examples of alleged atrocities that occurred under their command. This reveals the military chain of command, identifies senior military commanders and shows links to alleged human rights abuses against those commanders, SFM founder and director Tony Wilson told the Associated Press in an email interview.
“This is one piece of the puzzle that has been missing until now in terms of accountability, showing how the system works and that these abuses are not just the result of rogue units or individual soldiers,” he said.
Wilson said Myanmar data shows that 65 percent, or 51 of 79 senior military commanders between the end of March 2011 and the end of March this year, “have been suspected of enforced disappearances, murder, rape or torture committed by units under their command. ”
He said the research also showed that the officer most linked to serious human rights violations was General Mya Htun Oo, who was defense minister and a member of the ruling military council when the military seized power in 2021. She also became deputy prime minister in 2023 .(ab/uh)