Life Under the Junta

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(Read the foreword by Justice Richard Goldstone and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.)


Our research team consulted with 32 key informants and representatives from Chin civil society to conduct a population-based survey to document alleged human rights violations in Chin State. We led a twoweek skills-training course in interview techniques, sampling methodology, survey questions, case definitions, interviewing vulnerable populations, and informed consent for 23 community leaders and health professionals from across Chin State. From February to March 2010, surveyors performed a multi-stage, 90-cluster sample survey of 702 households in all nine townships in Chin State. They used an 87-question survey that had been translated into five regional languages to ask heads of household about their life under the junta during the past 12 months.


Of the 621 households interviewed, 91.9% reported at least one episode of a family member being forced to do hard labor, such as porter military supplies or build roads. Government authorities, primarily soldiers (68.3%), committed 98.3% of the attacks. Overall, 1,768 of the most severe abuses were reported across all nine townships of Chin State.

Legal Analysis

Our data reveal that Government authorities have perpetrated human rights violations against the Chin ethnic nationality in Western Burma. 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. At least eight of the violations that we surveyed fall within the purview of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and may constitute crimes against humanity. The ICC has jurisdiction over the most serious crimes of concern to the international community, including murder, extermination, enslavement, forced displacement, arbitrary detention, torture, rape, group persecution, enforced disappearance, apartheid, and other inhumane acts.

For acts to be investigated by the ICC as crimes against humanity, three common elements must be established: (1) Prohibited acts took place after 1 July 2002 when the ICC treaty entered into force. (2) Such acts were committed by government authorities as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population. (3) The perpetrator intended or knew that the conduct was part of the attack.

Our research demonstrates that the human rights violations we surveyed in Chin State meet these necessary elements. While our data imply knowledge that would satisfy the third element of the definition, further evidence is needed to establish individual culpability. This evidence would likely stem from a U.N. Commission of Inquiry or another thorough investigation.


PHR calls for an official Commission of Inquiry on Burma, whose mandate should be to investigate violations of human rights and humanitarian law and to identify perpetrators of such abuses. A full investigation into alleged crimes against humanity would lay the groundwork not only for future prosecution of offenders, but also for the creation of a legal and judicial system well-equipped to ensure accountability domestically. Institutional reform is essential to replacing impunity with accountability and to bringing justice and stability to the people of Burma.