Myanmar’s people have lost their rights and freedoms since the military coup on Feb. 1 and the numbers having their fundamental rights violated by the regime is increasing.
Meanwhile, the National Unity Government (NUG), a shadow administration formed to rival the military junta, has set up its Human Rights Ministry and appointed prominent rights activist U Aung Myo Min as minister.
U Aung Myo Min recently talked to The Irrawaddy about what action he will take to address the regime’s rights violations.
What will be your first step as Myanmar’s first human rights minister?
There was only the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission in the past in Myanmar. A separate ministry is meant to do more about human rights issues. As the first step, I will work with the people to record rights violations, crimes against humanity and war crimes in ethnic areas so that the truth can be established.
We are already working on this. And we are seeking public cooperation because we want to assure people that they can rely on the ministry and secure justice for themselves.
We will be recording the crimes to file complaints at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other courts. We must have records if are to bring the perpetrators to justice either at the ICC or other courts. Those records might look dismal and depressing now but they give solid evidence to bring the perpetrators to justice in the future.
The military council is violating international law. We will take action to make sure the perpetrators are held accountable and justice is done for the victims.
Though the human rights violations by the military regime have drawn attention from the international community, no punitive action has been taken. How confident are you as the human rights minister about being able to address it?
Given the situation, we are not yet in a position to take punitive action. We have to fix our collapsing judicial system, reconstitute the Human Rights Commission as it is not functioning and replace those who are not working.
The international community pays attention to the human rights situation in Myanmar. There are, however, not many mechanisms to establish truth and find justice for human rights violations and crimes. I will focus on bringing perpetrators into the international judicial mechanisms.
The ministry is unprecedented. How will it impact the country’s politics and its foreign policy?
The Human Rights Ministry will not defend the government. It represents the people and will promote and defend their rights.
The military-controlled media has been harshly criticizing the NUG, saying it is capable of nothing. What do you say?
We are in the revolutionary period and the NUG cannot function properly as a government. But we have transparency and we don’t just represent a party but all groups. This is our strength. Everyone in the NUG wants to fight the dictatorship with unwavering spirit and they have different expertise. Even though the NUG is not based in Naypyitaw, it will respect, defend and fulfill human rights, as a government.
Records of human rights violations by the regime are widely available on social media. What evidence is the NUG collecting?
We have gathered records of what has happened, especially arbitrary killings, crackdowns on peaceful protests and deaths in violent crackdowns. Another aspect is about torture during detention, interrogation and in prison. Another is airstrikes in ethnic minority areas, bombing villages and displacing civilians and their lack of access to humanitarian aid. We have also collected evidence about how rights violations affect women and children.
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