By SU MYAT MON | FRONTIER
YANGON — A monthly roundtable has urged the government to take more steps to resolve human rights problems, with participants saying the change of political climate since last year’s election has not been felt in rural areas.
The Challenges of Human Rights Defenders forum, held Thursday in Sanchaung Township, heard a range of activists call for more sweeping steps to reform the country’s judiciary and review extensive land seizures carried out by the former military junta.
Myanmar Farmers Union chair Ma Su Su Nway, a prominent land activist and four-time political prisoner, said the government should give a commitment to farmers across the company to land confiscated by the military and sold on to private companies.
“If the government want to resolve these problems, it needs to change the constitution to give farmers a means of having their land returned by the military,” she told those present.
The month after the government’s 21st Century Panglong Conference in Nay Pyi Taw, held as part of the peace negotiation architecture inherited from the U Thein Sein administration, Ta’ang Student and Youth Union activist Lway Hlar Reang said communities continued to be ravaged by war.
“People may think we have got real democracy now in Myanmar. It is probably true in the cities like Yangon and Mandalay, but democracy is not with people in Shan State,” she said.
She alleged the military had committed human rights violations including forced portering, sexual abuse and attacking civilians to a worse degree than before the previous government and eight non-state armed groups signed the so-called Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in October 2015.
Hostilities flared in northern Shan State at the beginning of the year between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Shan State Army-South, the latter making a push into TNLA territory with the reported support of the Tatmadaw.
While the SSA-S was a signatory to last year’s ceasefire accord, the TNLA was prevented from taking part in negotiations due to its support of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, an ethnic Kokang armed force which made an audacious attempt to retake the border town of Laukkai in February 2015.
“To stop the aggressive combat in ethnic areas, we want all armed groups to be included in political dialogue, which must lead to real democracy,” Lway Hlar Reang said.