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Background: Crimes Against Humanity in Burma

Crimes Against Humanity in Burma

Despite the November 2010 electoral exercise in Burma (also known as Myanmar), the military junta still controls all branches of government and leverages its power to suppress ethnic nationalities, who represent approximately 40% of the population occupying 55% of the land area of this Southeast Asian country. Chin State, an isolated, mountainous region in Western Burma, has poor health outcomes and lacks basic infrastructure. There is no network of roads connecting the nine major townships of Chin State; the few roads that exist are unpaved and often impassible in the rainy season. Access to Chin State is problematic from the bordering northeast Indian States of Mizoram and Manipur and the Chittagong Hill Tracts area of Bangladesh, as those areas are designated restricted zones, limiting the possibilities for cross-border humanitarian assistance to Chin State. Rapid militarization in Chin State since 1988 has resulted in widespread human rights violations. Since 1988, estimates place more than 75,000 displaced Chin in India, and another 50,000 in Malaysia. Decades of neglect and widespread abuses have debilitated the Chin who remain in Chin State and rendered them highly food insecure and vulnerable to the current famine.

Our Investigation

In 2010, Physicians for Human Rights investigated alleged human rights violations against the people of Chin State. Our research revealed extraordinary levels of state and military violence against civilian populations. The 2011 report, Life Under the Junta: Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity in Burma’s Chin State, provides the first quantitative data of these human rights violations. Our report also reveals that at least eight of the violations surveyed fall within the purview of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Our research revealed widespread reports of human rights violations among 621 randomly selected households during the 12 months prior to interviews. The abuses included forced labor, religious persecution, beatings, killing, disappearances, torture, rape and widespread pillaging.

Additionally, the report, which includes a foreword by Justice Richard Goldstone and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, catalogues human rights violations that may constitute crimes against humanity. Although other researchers have posited that a prima facie case exists for crimes against humanity in Burma, the current study provides the first quantitative data on these alleged crimes.

The findings of this report are part of an ongoing project to investigate and document the nature and extent of human rights abuses in Burma by PHR in collaboration with the Center for Public Health and Human Rights at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. PHR is indebted to five Chin community-based organizations, including the Chin Human Rights Organization, for their collaboration, expertise, and tireless advocacy on behalf of the Chin people, without which this research would not be possible.

We are deeply indebted to the more than 600 families across Chin State who shared their experiences and to the local organizations that care deeply for the lives and well-being of all Burmese nationals irrespective of religious or ethnic identity.

Learn more at

Read Life Under the Junta: Evidence of Crimes Against Humanity in Burma’s Chin State