(Commentary) UN Rights Rapporteur Calls for immediate Investigation into Tatmadaw’s Possible War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in Rakhine and Chin, Myanmar

A child injured by shell sharpener in Rakhine State in 2020
Sittway: April 29, 2020.
On pitch of heavy civilian casualties and children killed, and villagers disappeared in Rakhine and Chin states under the ongoing heavy military operations, and amid UN, US, and European nations’ continuance calls for ceasefire, UN Special Rapporteur Yanghee Lee is calling for an immediate investigation into Tatmadaw in possibly war crimes and crimes against humanity.

She said, “The Tatmadaw is systematically violating the most fundamental principles of international humanitarian law and human rights. Its conduct against the civilian population of Rakhine and Chin States may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.” 

To do the investigation job, Independent Investigation Mechanism for Myanmar known as IIMM is responsible and has full jurisdiction of investigation and prosecution of accused, especially for officials and rebels who commit crimes after 2011 in Rakhine, Chin, and other parts of Myanmar. 

IIMM is authorized by UN Human Rights Council and formed on August 30, 2019. It can prosecute head of the state, senior generals as well as soldiers and police on the grounds for violating international laws. 

The body is headed by Nicholas Koumjian and appointed by UN Secretary General. He has good reputation of long experience as prosecutor in Bosnia, Herzegovinia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Darfur, East Timor, and co-prosecutor in Cambodia. Now, he comes to Myanmar. His experience and responsibility will play major roles of prosecuting the security forces and the government officials for committing crimes in Myanmar. 

IIMM previously said it has collected many evidences and continuing more collecttons. The body also requests everyone in Myanmar to send evidences directly to it at [email protected]. The report does not have to be In English. Myanmar language is perfectly fine. The evidences the body collecting are photos, written documents, voice files, videos, and other materials such as bullets and shells and etc. But the evidences must not be a copy of Facebook as secondary source but directly from the persons who do the record at the sense as original source. 

There are many evidences local human rights organizations, lawyers, lawmakers, political parties have been collecting in Rakhine and Paletwa since 2018. 

One of the local right monitoring institute, Arakan Information Center, has registered 377 civilians killed and injured including women, children, and elderlies by the government security forces since January 2020.

It seems Myanmar government does not care much about the UN calls for war crime investigation as it has already had in 2017 after a half million Rohingya were forcefully drove out of the country.

As Myanmar proverb says a blind man does not afraid the ghost,  the leaders don’t care war crimes investigation that much. They don’t even give attention on ongoing trail of ICJ for genocide and the court order of prevention measurements to protect Rohingya who remain in the country. They believe they can get away from it because State Counsellor is defending. It is in fact totally wrong. 

And, after they carefully calculated their supporters such as China and Russia, the military believes these countries can protect them at the UN Security Council. But the mounting evidences of horrible crimes cannot help the big powers to defend the crimes. 

On the side of oppressed, the news of war crime investigation, many ethnic people, largely Rakhine, swiftly react with encouragement. They feel it is impressive because at least someone is closely watching how terrible the army lawlessly killing, forced evections, and burning villages, and how immensely they are suffering. 

At one point, a young activist asks what the statement says. A Buddhist monk questions who is going to investigate the Tatmadaw. A girl working in Thailand disappointed she cannot read it in English but wants to know all about it after she reads some texts written on Facebook like war crime and crime against humanity that the Tatmadaw might be investigated.

Aside from the Special Rapporteur hankering of the war crimes, Christine Schraner Burgener, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Myanmar, remains grossly silence. Some activists ask why she is so quiet at this critical moment of on slaughtering civilians and coronavirus attack. They believe she should speak up. 

Indeed, the calls of UN to investigate war crimes in Rakhine and Chin states gives a flicker of hope for those who are in dinger-zones and living with daily deathly bombardments and constant gunfire. 


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