Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

“All human beings are born free and equal

in dignity and rights.”

- Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Victims’ Rights in Burma

Wednesday, July 25, 2018 - 10:00am
2200 Rayburn House Office Building


Please join the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission for a hearing on the rights of victims of grave human rights abuses in Burma.

 Since October 2016, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have been the victims of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, including extrajudicial killings, forced displacement and sexual violence, committed by the Burmese military, known as the Tatmadaw. The grievous humanitarian crisis provoked by these crimes has been a focus of attention for the international community for months. Yet the tactics employed by the Tatmadaw are not new, nor is their application within Burma, a multi-ethnic state, limited to the Rohingya people.

Burma has been wracked by civil war since shortly after achieving independence in 1948. In addition to killing tens of thousands of protestors in 1988, and suppressing the popular uprising known as the Saffron Revolution in 2007, the Tatmadaw has engaged in constant warfare with Burma’s ethnic minorities. A brutal campaign in Karen state during the 1980s forced tens of thousands to flee to Thailand. Over 300,000 people were driven from their homes in central Shan state between 1996-1998, and another 100,000 fled Kachin and northern Shan state in 2011. That same year abuses including forced labor, forced displacement, arbitrary arrest, torture, sexual violence and killings were documented in Karen state.

In spite of the Panglong-21 peace initiative that began in 2016, fighting in Kachin and Shan states has recently intensified, accompanied by new allegations of serious human rights abuses by the Tatmadaw. Recent reporting indicates that the same tactics used against the Rohingya over the last two years are being deployed in several of Burma’s ethnic states. Many observers argue that the Tatmadaw’s entrenched impunity contributes to the unending cycle of violence in the country.

Under international law, victims of grave human rights abuses have the right to redress. But Burma’s 2008 constitution shields the Tatmadaw from accountability for past crimes. Victims’ rights to truth, justice, and reparations have never been fulfilled, nor have necessary steps to ensure non-recurrence been taken.

Witnesses will discuss the human rights situation in several states in Burma and offer recommendations for ways to advance victims’ rights.

This hearing will be open to Members of Congress, congressional staff, the interested public, and the media. The hearing will be livestreamed via the Commission website,, and will also be available for viewing on House Digital Channel 55. For any questions, please contact Kimberly Stanton at 202-225-3599 or (for Rep. McGovern) or Jamie Staley at 202-226-1516 or (for Rep. Hultgren).

Hosted by:

James P. McGovern, M.C.
Co-Chairman, TLHRC
Randy Hultgren, M.C.
Co-Chairman, TLHRC


Panel I

  • Michael Martin, Specialist in Asian Affairs, Congressional Research Service
  • Gum San Nsang, President, Kachin Alliance  
  • Tun Khin, President, Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK  

Panel II 

  • Skye Wheeler, Researcher, Women’s Rights Division, Human Rights Watch
  • Matthew Smith, Chief Executive Officer, Fortify Rights
  • Francisco Bencosme, Asia Pacific Advocacy Manager, Amnesty International USA
  • Daniel Sullivan, Senior Advocate for Human Rights, Refugees International


Opening Remarks

Rep. James P. McGovern, Opening Remarks: Burma
Rep. Randy Hultgren, Opening Remarks: Burma


Panel I

Michael Martin, Victims' Rights in Burma
Gum San Nsang, Victims' Rights in Burma
Tun Khin, Victims' Rights in Burma

Panel II

Skye Wheeler, Victims' Rights in Burma
Matthew Smith, Victims' Rights in Burma
Francisco Bencosme, Victims' Rights in Burma
Daniel Sullivan, Victims' Rights in Burma

Submitted for the Record

OHCHR, Special Rapporteur Oral Update, June 27, 2018
Human Rights Watch, All of My Body Was Pain, November 2017
Fortify Rights, They Gave Them Long Swords, July 2018
​Fortify Rights, I Thought They Would Kill Me, June 2014
Amnesty International, All the Civilians Suffer, June 2017
Amnesty International, We Will Destroy Everything, June 2018
Refugees International, Suffering in Shadows, December 2017




115th Congress