Women’s Organizations in Burma: ‘We Are Under Watch’

Members of the WLB say that they have been threatened for speaking out on rights violations involving the Tatmadaw.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Representatives of the Women’s League of Burma (WLB) say that they are ‘under close watch’ in their work and are frequently threatened by the authorities after speaking on issues related to the Burmese military.

The coalition marked the start of its tenth conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand, on April 22, during which members spoke to the media about their current difficulties, particularly working in conflict areas in ethnic states. The conference will last three days.

“We are under close watch when we are talking about issues related to the Tatmadaw or when we have activities like workshops,” Lway Poe Nge, the WLB’s general secretary, told NMG. “Therefore, we are afraid to openly speak in public about issues involving the Tatmadaw.”

Lway Poe Nge said that WLB’s member organizations have been “threatened,” and must self-censor in workshops or in speaking to the media about the military.

“We are very careful in talking with the media. As you all know, there are many leaders and media reporters who have been sentenced to prison when they talk about the Tatmadaw’s affairs. It’s a sort of threat,” she explained.

Tin Tin Nyo, a WLB policy board member, said that WLB works to highlight who commits human rights violations and violence against women in Burma.

“Even though we have some limitations, we publish reports related to human rights. For instance, when international organizations come to collect facts and documents about human rights violations in Burma, WLB meets them and talks with them. At those times, we were followed by strangers, so we feel it’s insecure for us,” she explained.

Conference participants say one of their goals is to draw up a future plan.

“We analyzed the current political situation in detail, and identified what things are obstacles for us,” Tin Tin Nyo said. “When we talk about the 2008 Constitution, the constitution gives full authority and political power to army. If we cannot amend the constitution, there will be no real political transition in our country.”

WLB, she added, has been exploring what their own role will be in bringing this change.

The coalition of 13 women’s organizations was long based on the Thai-Burma border, after being founded in 1999. In 2017, the organization moved its headquarters into Burma. They work on issues related to peace, reconciliation, ending violence against women, and building women’s capacity.