Hers is one of many families now demanding recognition for abuses suffered by loved ones under decades of dictatorship. Their struggle for justice could test both the sincerity of President Thein Sein’s reforms and the patience of Myanmar’s untouchable and seemingly remorseless military.
It also runs counter to a political mood of reconciliation promoted by both opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the once-critical Western governments now engaging with a government packed with former generals. The United States and European Union have lifted most sanctions against Myanmar.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) no longer calls for a U.N. Commission of Inquiry into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Myanmar. Instead, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate wants South African-style “restorative justice”, which precludes putting members of the former regime on trial.
But unlike post-apartheid South Africa, post-junta Myanmar has no Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where victims and perpetrators of violence can put their country’s tortured history to rest.
Myanmar’s toothless Human Rights Commission is only empowered to investigate alleged abuses committed since its formation in September last year.
None of this has deterred the many bereaved relatives yearning for justice and closure. “So many people died in the 1988 revolution,” says Khine Nyein Ei. “They also had families. It hurts so much to lose a son or daughter or sister. Everyone feels the same way.”
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