The military has consistently failed to respect international human rights law and the international humanitarian law principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. The deliberate targeting of civilians has formed part of army's policies, tactics and conduct for decades. The “Four Cuts” counterinsurgency policy, initiated in the 1960s and still implemented, seeks to cut off non-State armed groups from access to food, finances, intelligence, and recruits from the local civilian population.
Rape and sexual violence have been a particularly egregious and recurrent feature of the targeting of the civilian population in Rakhine, Kachin and Shan States since 2011. Similar patterns of rape and sexual violence have been reported for at least three decades. The scale, brutality and systematic nature of these violations indicate that rape and sexual violence are part of a deliberate strategy to intimidate, terrorise or punish a civilian population, and are used as a tactic of war.
The Myanmar army has historically cast itself as the protector of the nation, preserving “national unity in the face of ethnic diversity”, while prioritising Bamar-Buddhist identity and interests. Discrimination against ethnic and religious minority groups has been well-documented for decades. Military operations are often accompanied by deeply insulting slurs and outright threats linked to ethnicity and religion.
The army acts with complete impunity and has never been held accountable. Its standard response is to deny, dismiss and obstruct. It publicly lauds the discipline of troops and operations conducted “in full accordance with the law”. The army's documented history of crimes demonstrates an absence of responsible command, or measures to prevent or repress crimes.