Crimes of Former Junta Not Off Limits, Says Govt Committee

By Tha Lun Zaung Htet 22 February 2013

RANGOON — Complaints about illegal acts, including human rights violations, by Burma’s former military junta can still be submitted to the government, according to the chairman of a government committee that handles public complaints.

At a press conference held at the office of the Upper House’s Public Complaints and Petitions Committee (PCPC), Chairman Aung Nyein told reporters that his committee does not separate cases based on whether they took place under the current administration or the previous regime.

“We have received complaints about cases under the previous government and forwarded them to the current administration to take further action in accordance with the law,” he said.

He said that even though the 2008 Constitution includes an article that prevents anyone from filing lawsuits or taking other measures in response to any act committed by the former regime, this should not apply to complaints filed by the public.

“We are now receiving individual complaints, so I don’t think it is related to that article,” said Aung Nyein. “That’s why we are forwarding complaints about cases under the previous government to the current administration for further action. I don’t think that article and the complaints we are handling are interrelated.”

He added that most of the complaints the PCPC receives with regard to the military regime are land confiscation cases.

Chapter 14, Article 445 of Burma’s 2008 Constitution states that “No proceeding shall be instituted against the [former ruling military councils] or any member thereof or any member of the Government, in respect of any act done in the execution of their respective duties.”

Thein Nyint, a Lower House MP from Rangoon’s Thingangyun Township and a lawyer, told The Irrawaddy that it is unlikely the government will take any action in cases involving the previous regime because the 2008 Constitution grants the former ruling generals and officials serving under them complete immunity from prosecution.

“Because of Article 445, what the PCPC Chairman said was just words, and won’t have any actual impact in practice,” said Thein Nyunt.

Dr Saw Naing, an executive of the opposition National League from Democracy from Rangoon’s South Okkalapa Township, said that the government should say if it intends to take action in cases where it accepts complaints from the public.

“The PCPC chairman said people can lodge complaints but he didn’t say anything about taking action, so I don’t think his statement really means anything,” said Dr Saw Naing.

At the Union Day dinner on Feb. 12, Vice Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of Burma’s armed forces, reportedly admitted that the army committed land confiscations under the former junta. He said that seized land not currently being used will be returned to farmers.

President’s Office spokesperson Ye Htut said, however, that he still cannot predict when exactly those lands will be returned.