Fact-Finding Mission Report Calls for Removal of Military from Gov’t

By Zarni Mann 19 September 2018

MANDALAY—The UN Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) on Myanmar released a report on Wednesday suggesting that the government of Myanmar pursue the removal of the military from the country’s political life, and to restructure the military without delay.

After performing a detailed case study of Myanmar, especially on the conflicts in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states, the FFM report states that the Tatmadaw, the Burmese military, should come under full elected civilian control and be removed from the country’s political and economic life.

“Peace will not be achieved while the Tatmadaw remains above the law,” Marzuki Darusman, chair of the FFM, was quoted in the OHCHR press release.

“The Tatmadaw is the greatest impediment to Myanmar’s development as a modern democratic nation. The commander-in-chief of the Tatmadaw, Min Aung Hlaing, and all the current leadership must be replaced, and a complete restructuring must be undertaken to place the Tatmadaw under full civilian control. Myanmar’s democratic transition depends on it,” he added.

The 440-page report by the FFM, which was submitted at the 39th Human Rights Council, features a wide range of evidence and details of human rights violations committed mainly by the military against the ethnic minorities, especially in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan states.

The full report by the FFM follows a preliminary report which was submitted in August calling for the investigation and prosecution of top military leaders for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

In their report, the mission urged the government to revise the 2008 Constitution and said that the country should implement security reform by placing the security sector, including the military, under full civilian control which would require the parliament’s approval in the appointing of a commander-in-chief and the use of funding for the military, and to abolish the military’s quota in the parliament.

“The government of Myanmar, including the civilian authorities and the Tatmadaw as relevant, should abolish the quota for military seats in the legislature, the authority of the Tatmadaw to appoint vice-presidents and ministers and the military’s control over certain ministries,” said the report.

While urging the government, civilian authorities and the military to cease all unlawful security operations, gender-based violence and harassment and prosecution of human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and peace activists, the mission also urged for the release of the Reuter reporters, Ko Kyaw Soe Oo and Ko Wa Lone.

On the other hand, the report also urged the government to repeal or amend laws such as Peaceful Assembly Act, Burmese penal code 505(b), the Official Secret Acts, section 66(d) of the Telecommunications Act, and section 17(1) of the Unlawful Associations Act, which are threatening freedom of expression, opinion and association in Myanmar.

Although the mission is urging the government and the military to make the reforms without delay for the sake of the country’s democracy, human rights activists are doubtful that the institutions would do so.

“The suggestions of the Fact-Finding Mission are of international standard and there is no other country in the world which puts the military first. However, we doubt the military will make the reform because there have never been signs of the military following suggestions from the UN or many other international bodies, in the past,” said Lawyer U Thein Than Oo, the well-known human rights lawyer.

The lawyer said that the government is in a difficult situation in which the constitution blocks them from having full power of governance over the country and that the people are waiting to see how the government will react to the full report of the FFM.

“The suggestions of the mission are things which our country should comply with, although there are many incomplete facts in the report. However, whether it is complied with or not completely depends on the government and the military,” he added.

“On the other hand, our country’s governance system is very complicated and can be reformed only if [the government and military] are willing to do so. On the international stage, our country’s image already has an ugly face and we hope it won’t get worse.”

The report also repeats calls for the United Nations Security Council to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) as well as an arms embargo and sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes against to the most relevant people including Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing and five other senior commanders.

The report also urges ethnic armed groups and the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) to comply with international humanitarian laws, to protect civilians, to respect human rights and to participate and negotiate with the government to end the conflicts.