Myanmar nationals seek justice in Philippines for “military war crimes” in their country

Christian Pastor Cung Biak Hum was 30 years old when the Myanmar military allegedly shot him dead in Thantlang town of Chin State, Myanmar.  He was on his way to help put out the raging fires in houses after an armed encounter between the military and local armed groups in September 2021.

Pu Ral Tu, 78, and Pu Hram Cung, 59, also members of Hum’s church, were killed the same month when government troops allegedly fired at their vehicle when they entered the town to retrieve medicines from their homes.

Aside from the burning of houses and churches from August 2021 until June 2022, the military also allegedly starved civilians in the aftermath of Typhoon Mocha in May 2023.

According to the June 28 report of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights, at least 3,453 individuals died at the hands of the military, 21,807 were arrested, and 60,000 civilian structures were destroyed from February 2021 to April 2023.

These are some of the stories of the Chin State natives seeking justice in Philippine courts for the war crimes allegedly committed by the Myanmar military or the Tatmadaw which ousted Myanmar state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi in a coup d’etat on Feb. 1, 2021.

War crimes complaint filed before the DOJ

Romel Bagares and Gilbert Andres, Filipino lawyers of the five Myanmar natives, filed a war crime complaint against the Tatmadaw before the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Manila on Wednesday.

The complaint was filed under the principle of Mandatory Universal Jurisdiction incorporated in Section 17, Section 2 (e), and Section 9 of Republic Act No. 9851 or the “Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity.”

Bagares said this is the first case involving military abuses in a foreign country filed under the said law.

In the 160-page joint complaint-affidavit, ten Tatmadaw officers and members were named respondents: Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, Dr. Vung Suan Thang, Lt. Gen. Min Naing, Lt. Gen. Tay Zar Kyaw, Major Gen. Phyo Thant, Major Gen. Than Htike, Brig. Gen. Myo Htut Hlaing, Col. Saw Tun, Lt. Col. Myo Zin Tun, and Major Nay Myo Oo.

“The ball is in the hands of the DOJ whether to initiate the process of serving subpoenas to the respondents to answer the charges,” Bagares said in a message to VERA Files.

 The complainants are Chin State natives forced to live in other countries after their houses were burned and suffered under Tatmadaw’s alleged criminal acts.

According to them, the government of Myanmar under different administrations have targeted Chin for being the only state where Buddhists are not the majority.

“Ultimately, the Chin people of Chin State, Myanmar are discriminated and have become the victims of war crimes by the Myanmar Military because they are Chin, they are Christians, and they carry the cross,” the complaint read.

The United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights has recognized the non-international armed conflict between Tatmadaw and armed groups in Chin State.

The complaint was a joint effort of the Myanmar Accountability Project and the Chin Human Rights Organization.