- By Su Thet Hmu
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. Every individual can enjoy equal rights and freedom, without segregation. No one shall be subjected torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State. Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person. These are all described in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Formation of MNHRC
With a view to upgrading fundamental rights of Myanmar citizens and protecting human rights, MNHRC was formed in September, 2014, consisting of 11 members whereas the commission started to run its operation with the chairman, vice-chairman and five other members, 7 in all, starting from 6th October 2016. The commission is made up of 5 departments—department of up-gradation and education of human rights, department of protection of human rights, legislative department, administration department, international relation department and management and finance department. Performances of the MNHRC include making trips across the nation for educational sharing, dealing with letters of complaints and issues, making surveys on the ground, if there happened in the areas, important matters and inspecting penitentiaries and custodies.
Upgrading education and process of protection
In the year 2017, MNHRC made talk shows on sharing educational knowledge in 15 townships including Puta-O, Machanbaw, Kawlin, Wuntho, Maiyaung and Maisat. In the National Defense University as well, subjects on human rights had already been conducted to high-ranking Tatmadaw officials for four times. Similarly, trainings on human rights were conducted in other military institutes and camps. In the year 2017 similar trainings were conducted to police officers in Yangon and Magwe Regions and Kachin State.
Educational talk shows were held in the Ministries, 40 ministries in 2015 and 34 ministries in 2017. In the Central Institute of Civil Services as well, a total of over 30000 staff were given trainings for 72 times. Workshops for region and state-level officials were also held in 7 states in 2014, 7 regions and Union Region [Nay Pyi Taw] in 2015 and 4 districts in 2017.
Village and ward-based workshops
In 2015 village or ward based workshops were held for 14 times, with 2 workshops held for officers of penitentiaries. In 2017, 2 workshops were held for women’s organizations, one workshop on human rights on children in co-sponsorship with the Education Ministry and similar workshop for City Development Police Forces.
In 2016 8 penitentiaries and 5 inmate labor camps—13 in all were inspected, with 28 prisons and 24 inmate labor camps inspected in 2017. In inspecting penitentiaries, Buthidaung prison was inspected for three times.
Inspection of penitentiaries
While inspecting the prisons, inmates were allowed to frankly submit their difficulties and violations of human rights in the back of prison staff. As a result, 320 from prisons and 133 from labor camps—453 reports had been tendered. In 2017 48 police custodies, 45 custodies of courts of justice and 12 custodies in hospital were inspected.
Investigation on the ground situation
According to complaints as well as information from news media and posted in social media such as face-book the commission made surveys on the ground for investigation. In 2017 23 on-the-ground-investigations were made, with 16 complaints included. Very recently, the commission managed to rescue two children tortured by the victim’s father in Danubyu, just upon receipt of the news posted in face-book.
Making trips to Rakhine State for investigation
MNHRC made 16 trips to Rakhine State for investigations on the ground due to the complaints, inspecting two more times in Maungtaw region, Rakhine State in 2017 according to the needs. During the first trip, the commission studied as to whether national ethnic people or Bengalis were being violated of human rights, finding out that Mro, Khami, Daingnet and Hindus were atrociously slaughtered by terrorists. Concerning this, news and information were made known to the people.
During the second trip to Sittwe, Buthidaung and Maungtaw in December, 2017 the commission studied situations on the arrangement of accepting Bengalis who would return from the neighboring country and refugee camps accommodating Hindu nationals who did not yet go back to their original locations. In addition to this, the commission visited the safer sites for building new housing estates for Mro, Daingnet and Khami nationals whose house were burnt down by terrorists.
Cases mostly complained to the MNHRC
In 2016, a total of 611 letters of complaints were received by MNHRC, with 414 letters of complaints received in 2017. Out of them, 276 complaints were to be submitted to the respective Ministries. 112 letters included letters with unclear descriptions of the cases, some to be dealt with through judicial channels and some involved with personal matters only. 3 cases were found to do nothing with human rights, with 3 others drawn from suing in courts of justice.
Cases mostly complained to the MNHRC were cases of land ownership. Some cases were cases of trespassing on land as residence without permission, cases of being removed from lands and confiscation of lands in Kayin State. One case was that an injured inmate at the labor camp complained to the commission over the failure to give medical treatment concerning his injury from the authority concerned at the camp. As regards this, the Ministry arrested the authority concerned, it was learnt. The commission managed to hospitalize the victim.
Advantages and disadvantages among 2016-2017 performances
Compared to previous years, progress had been made to considerate extent. Inspections of penitentiaries in 2017 were made three times of what was done in 2016. Inspections of inmate labor camps were made nearly five times, with inspections of custodies at courts of justice nine times and inspections of custodies at hospitals two times made respectively.
In 2016 the commission had chances to meet 115 inmates only whereas it could meet 453 inmates in 2017. Regarding surveys the amounts of trips increased up to four times—6 trips in 2016 and 23 trips in 2017. In answer to the announcements in radios, TVs and newspapers that complaints can be sent to the commission, people trust in the commission more than ever, acquiring cooperation from Union Ministries and Region and State Governments.
Complaints can be sent
If any became a victim of human rights violation he can tender a letter of complaint to MNHRC. If a citizen became a victim of civilian rights entrusted by the Constitution or a victim of human rights described in the universal declaration of human rights or a victim of human rights included in the agreement of women’s rights on sex segregation, agreement of human rights on children and agreement of human rights on the disabled persons, the person in question or by proxy can send a letter of complaint to the following address—chairman, MNHRC, NO/27, Pyay Road 6 ½ mile, Hlaing township, Yangon in person or email address—firstname.lastname@example.org describing the following facts:
1/ complainant’s name, address and contact numbers [line ph or mobile ph]
2/ complainant by proxy [describing in detail about the victim [if needed- photos, video file or audio file and other evidences attached]
3/ affidavit letter and signature
Complaints not to be investigated by the Commission
-Cases sued in a court of justice
-Cases under trial/appeal in a court of justice
-Cases in which final decrees had been decided by a court of justice.
Characteristics of human rights
Human rights are concerned with every individual, being inborn rights of people. Human rights can neither be divided nor separated. And, human rights are co-related with each other.
(Translated by Khin Maung Oo)