At a time when the United Nations and other international organizations are urging authorities in Myanmar to end the “systemic discrimination” against minority communities, particularly the Rohingya Muslims, the Asian country is instead taking steps to silence those who dare to voice the atrocities being committed in the region.
The Ta’ang Women’s Organization (TWO), a human rights group representing an ethnic minority in the Shan province, recently claimed that it had to cancel its public launch of alleged war crimes and army torture report.
The event, scheduled to take place this week, was called off after two local hotels suddenly backed out of hosting it.
“The Yangon government blocked it,” the organization told The Guardian.
They believe the regional government forced hotels in the former capital city of Yangon to drop the press conference.
“TWO regards the cancelations by both hotels as an indicator of the ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedom, even under the new government,” the group added.
The report, according to The Guardian, highlights “systematic war crimes in Ta’ang areas of northern Shan state over the past five years, committed by the armed forces, or Tatmadaw, who are fighting a decades-old insurgency.”
“Villagers were usually tied up with rope, kicked and beaten with guns. Other torture methods included suffocation with plastic bags, pouring petrol down throats, stabbing with knives, burning, and slicing skin off villagers’ arms,” the text read, adding that extrajudicial killings and sexual assaults had also been carried out.
Moreover, it also documents torture of more than 100 civilians across 33 villages. These people were reportedly accused of fighting with resistance forces.
“After the NLD won the 2015 election, we hoped they would end the offensives in the ethnic areas, but the attacks and war crimes have continued,” said Lway Poe Ngeal, the main author of the report. “It is clear the Tatmadaw still has absolute power and is above the law.”
Neither national nor regional authorities have yet commented on the canceled events.
Meanwhile, the manager of the first venue, the Orchid hotel, said they called off the event due to the issues’ high sensitivity.
“We agreed to the Ta’ang booking, but later we saw their invitation letter, which wrote too boldly about the military doing bad things. The issue was too big and too sensitive. We don’t want to make problems during the new government’s transition period so we canceled the booking,” he told The Myanmar Times.
Ta’ang and other ethnic minorities make up 40 percent of the Buddhist majority country, notorious for its human rights violations.