Opinions and comments on the death of civilians

The DMG’s reporter Khaing Mrat Naing asked for the opinions and comments of politicians, human rights activists and lecturers on the death of civilians, IDPs due to the armed conflict in Arakan State.

17 Jun 2019


The DMG’s reporter Khaing Mrat Naing asked for the opinions and comments of politicians, human rights activists and lecturers on the death of civilians, IDPs due to the armed conflict in Arakan State.


Thin Zar Shoon Lae Yee

If a war breaks out in a region, opposing groups detain civilians for questioning. It is not an unusual situation.

But, the detention of about 200 villagers and subsequent deaths of some villagers during their detention is a problem.

And, we’ve heard that local residents were killed before their arraignment started. So, our CSOs are concerned for the security of local people. I think international organizations should closely watch the current situation in Arakan State.

The incumbent government also needs to urge the Tatmadaw to conduct their activities in accordance with the Geneva Conventions to show respect for human rights so that they can conduct their questioning without inflicting any physical harm on villagers as armed conflict continue unabated.

And, CSOs have the responsibility to watch if there is unlawful arrests or detentions and should respond to unlawful actions in conjunction with the media.

I’d like to suggest that those who commit unlawful acts, such as breaching human rights should not be granted pardons. Granting amnesty is an engrained habit in Myanmar.

People should not accept such incidents of people dying while in detention as armed conflicts go on. People should not forgive such grave offences. During a war, armed groups are fighting against each other. But, if civilians are killed, it is a war crime. So, the international community and Myanmar nationals should not forgive people who commit such heinous crimes. So, we need to promote and support the idea that war crimes should fit the justified punishments, regardless of how odious the crimes are.

The Tatmadaw assumes that the Tatmadaw is born of the people. If the Tatmadaw says that they subscribe to the principles of democracy, they need to immediately cease any actions that could negatively affect people.

If the Tatmadaw can exercise restraint against physically and verbally harassing villagers they will gain real support from people. If not, the degree of animosity of people in Arakan State will grow and it would not be a good situation for the Tatmadaw to be in.

It could lead to racial conflicts for generations to come, and have a negative impact on youngsters growing up today.


Ma Khin Ohma (Human Rights Activist)

According to international law, arrest, unlawful detention, torture or killing civilians during a war is a crime against humanity. Under the humanitarian and human rights laws, it needs to protect people from the horrific side effects.

The Myanmar army also shot indiscriminately into residential areas. They launched heavy weapons and conducted air raids. These all activities are crimes against humanity. It is a blatant breach of the Geneva Conventions code of ethics during wartime.


Dr Than Lwin Oo (International Relations Department, Yangon University)

From my point of view, the AA attacks the Tatmadaw by employing guerilla warfare tactics because it does not have enough force to clash with the Tatmadaw head on. So, the Tatmadaw troops cannot differentiate between innocent civilians and armed ethnic group members. That situation severely affects the current national reconciliation process.

Meanwhile, the AA seems to garner much public support, this is advantageous for the AA.

If we consider the current situation, it is a political challenge and there is a delay in the national reconciliation process.

According to the Geneva Convention, armed groups are not allowed to target civilians during a war. If people are affected, it is breaching the conventions. The Tatmadaw knows it and the minister for Defense Services said that offenders will have effective actions taken against them.

Guerilla warfare strategies used by the AA make it difficult for the Tatmadaw to zero in on the AA’s troops so this can frustrate the Tatmadaw’s own military tactics. The AA use this kind of strategy because they are outnumbered and outgunned when compared to the number of Tatmadaw soldiers and their overall arsenal.

And, I must say this about the weakness of the constitution; the military is an autonomous part of the government and is above the policies and mandates set forth by the judicial branch of the government. So basically, no government officials interfere with the actions that the Tatmadaw carry out.

So, the policy of the Tatmadaw and the government is as different as chalk and cheese. In some cases, the government has remained reticent. The State Counsellor thought that she could mobilize the Tatmadaw under the idea of national reconciliation. The NLD government is now sandwiched between two sides.

More racial conflicts are observable because of armed conflicts that broke out between the Tatmadaw and the AA. The strategy of using religion as a pretext for inciting hostilities resulted in increasing resentment from opposing sides.  


Ko Shaing Ko Ko Lwin (Salween Institute for Public Policy)

I found that the Tatmadaw could not follow human rights standards and principles when they detained civilians for questioning for whatever reasons.

The situation has become one where Arakan people lack security and the government fails to provide security for them. Meanwhile, an attempt to achieve the Arakaneses’ Rakhita dream is almost within reach. I think, it will gain more public support if there is a positive change.

Regarding the death of civilians, I think the Human Rights Committee should closely monitor the Tatmadaw’s activities if they’re operating under the government’s rule, since the government signed the Geneva Conventions doctrine on Human Rights in 1991. So, the government needs to correct any activities if they are not in accord with the standards and principles of international human rights.

If not, the security force in Myanmar will lose people’s support as well as international support. And, the government needs to show its stance on the death of civilians during war. It needs to correct its public relations policies and public diplomacy.

If it is silent on serious situations, the chasm between the government and people will become wider. People might think the government cannot provide security for people. If they don’t provide security, Arakan State will possibly become outside the scope of government rule.

In addition, there should be clear and well-defined objectives for both the police and the army. Both groups should protect and serve the people, but they must carry out these duties at different levels and stick to their appointed tasks: there should be different duties between the Tatmadaw and police.  The duty of the security of the country and the security of the public are not different. However, both the police and government army should recognize and respect each other’s assignments.

Now, the Tatmadaw conducted procedures that fall under the jurisdiction of the police force and this created problems. So, people’s trust in the security forces in Myanmar might decrease. So, I’d like to suggest that the Tatmadaw rely on the police for potential interrogations for security purposes that are in line with the standards of international human rights.

Also, both the Tatmadaw and the AA need to stop settling their differences with bullets and bombs and engage in political dialogue to enhance the overall political framework.


Dr Maung Zarni (Political observer)

Killing six out of more than 200 detained villagers for different reasons is a lawless activity perpetrated by the Myanmar army, it’s an extrajudicial offence.

Such offences during an armed conflict are viewed as war crimes. When enemies surrender, you have to treat them well as prisoners of war. You are not allowed to bully and torture them. The Tatmadaw committed such offences in every ethnic region, they especially made trouble for hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Arakan State.

The Tatmadaw has carried out whatever they wanted to do for more than 40 years. They have killed monks, communists and students without a second thought.

Arakan people are striving for liberation and equality by means of armed struggle and peaceful approach. They are trying to fight for their rights in a democratic way.

So, Arakanese need to recognize Muslims in Arakan State, who are part of Arakan society and have been living in the region for decades. They have historical and official evidence justifying their presence, and they recognize themselves as “Rohingya” so that Arakaneses’ can gain international recognition.

Arakanese people in Arakan State were involved in or supported the crackdown of Muslims in Arakan Stae: 400 Muslim villages were emptied within two to three weeks, it’s not much different than Jews being eradicated by Germany’s Nazis.

So, the international community now identifies Arakanese people as culprits that are as much to blame for atrocities against Muslims in Arakan State. If Arakanese people can try to correct the international view, the Arakanese’s revolution will receive the full support of the world media and international community.


U Than Wai (Spokesperson of USDP in Arakan State)

Armed conflicts have been occurring between the Myanmar army and the Arakan Army. If there is war in a region, people will be arrested or killed, this is the unpleasant side effect of war.

As an Arakanese, I feel sorry for the villagers who were detained and killed. I want the people who are responsible for these malicious acts to know this. I do not want war and anything related to it. I want peace because civilians were senselessly killed.

So, I want to know if the central government and regional government are aware of the injustices committed, or if they are not aware. Or, if they’re just sticking their head in the sand hoping this nasty, violent, social blemish on the face of the nation will pass by over time and things will go back to normal.

I think peace cannot be achieved because both sides continue to fight. Both organizations have their own administrators. The Tatmadaw is under the government according to the constitution. The Commander-in-Chief is also under the President. So, I must conclude that it is the responsibility of the government.

Regarding the death of villagers, field inspections were conducted. In fact, it is not necessary to conduct field inspection. It is enough to see information covered in news.

The government did nothing about the death of villagers or their grieving family members, it just reports the news. I want the Commander-in-Chief or the President to address these issues. Sadly, we do not have a brave person to voice our desires. If Dr Aye Maung was here, he would most certainly speak out. Now he was sent to jail for 20 years. For me, I do not have the authority to speak. I am concerned for the future of Arakan State. We need a leader who can express our collective concerns and needs.