Martial law is license to kill: Human rights lawyer

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Well known human rights lawyer and hard hitting critic Aung Htoo has unleashed a string of charges against the government and particularly the military on the ongoing offensive against rebels in Shan State’s Kokang Self-Administered Zone (SEZ).
U Aung Htoo

“(After judiciary power is transferred to the defense chief) the people of Kokang can do nothing except to wrap their precious lives carefully with leaves,” he wrote, “as it amounts to issuing license to kill to the military.”

Shan Human Rights Foundation, on 4 March, released a report on the killings in Kokang since 9 February, when the first clash took place between the Burma Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) led by Peng Jiasheng, who was ousted by the former out of Kokang since 2009.

He also accused the government of employing hate speech tactics. “Racial hatred being fumigated by successive government can bring nothing good to the country,” he says. “The Burmese military must have some hidden agenda for seeking popular support by its anti Chinese pleas.”

Aung Htoo also refuted Naypyitaw’s claim that Peng’s attack on the Kokang SEZ’s “legitimate” government as an “infringement of national sovereignty”.

“Only a local government elected by the local people can be considered legitimate,” he argues. “How can Bai Xuoqian who has been appointed by the military be legitimate? Actually the label Kokang SEZ should be changed to ‘Myanmar Tatmadaw SEZ.’”

Likewise, Aung Htoo is against the defense chief Min Aung Hlaing’s labeling of Peng as a drug lord, illegal arms producer and a criminal that had executed 17 police officers. “We need only to look at it from the rule of law stance,” he says. “If one has committed a crime, one must be promptly taken action for it, not later,” he writes. “Rule of law doesn’t mean to cover up for one’s crime while you’re still in love with each other and to make it a crime only  after you’ve fallen out of love with each other.”

In fact the Burma Army itself is guilty of executing more than 100 militiamen in 2000 after they had surrendered during the Mong Koe incident, he said.

He concluded by urging Naypyitaw to abide by the Geneva Convention that it has signed and ratified.

The majority people of Kokang are of Han Chinese descent. Before independence, it was one of the 34 princely states of the Federated Shan States, which become Shan State following independence in 1948.

Peng Jiasheng, the former leader of Kokang, was ousted by the Burma Army in 2009 and replaced with his former deputy Bai Xuoqian, who has also been appointed a Shan State Assemblyman.

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