The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), a Bangkok-based regional network of 81 member organisations across 21 Asian countries, with consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and consultative relationship with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights. Founded in 1991, a FORUM-ASIA statement, endorsed by 122 organisations and several individuals, has demanded that Myanmar military should end its use of violence and respect democracy, stating, they “denounce an apparent coup in Myanmar, and associated violence, which has suspended civilian government and effectively returned full power to the military”:
On 1 February, the military arbitrarily detained State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the National League for Democracy. A year-long state of emergency was declared, installing Vice-President and former lieutenant-general Myint Swe as the acting President. Myint Swe immediately handed over power to commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (Section 418 of Myanmar’s 2008 Constitution enables transfer of legislative, executive, and judicial powers to the Commander in Chief). Internet connections and phone lines throughout the country were disrupted, pro-democracy activists have been arbitrarily arrested, with incoming reports of increased detentions. Soldiers in armoured cars have been visibly roaming Naypyitaw and Yangon, raising fears of lethal violence.
“The military should immediately and unconditionally release all detained and return to Parliament to reach a peaceful resolution with all relevant parties,” said the groups.
The military and its aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) had disputed the results of the November elections, which saw the majority of the seats won by the NLD. The arrests of the leaders came just before the Parliament was due to convene for the first time in order to pick the President and Vice-Presidents.
Among the key leaders arrested, aside from Aung San Suu Kyi, are: President U Win Myint and Chief Ministers U Phyo Min Thein, Dr Zaw Myint Maung, Dr Aung Moe Nyo, Daw Nan Khin Htwe Myint, and U Nyi Pu.
The man now in charge of the country, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, stands accused of committing the crime of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, raising alarms for the human rights situation, in particular for ethnic minority and Rohingya communities. Military rule also reverses the emerging political openness that occurred in recent years.
The military has remained an influential force in the government, despite changes in the previous decade. “How the military has acted has proven it has never been committed to any democratic change. It has always been interested in preserving power,” said the groups.
The organisations, comprising diverse CSOs and NGOs, call on the Myanmar military to:
- Immediately and unconditionally release all those currently arbitrarily detained;
- Immediately restore the Internet and all forms of communications; and
- Allow Parliament to resume and elected MPs to fulfil their mandate without impediment.
The groups also made the following demands to:
- The UN Security Council to convene an emergency meeting to respond to the situation including sending a delegation to Myanmar, the establishment of a global arms embargo and a referral of the situation in Myanmar to the ICC;
- The international community to urgently establish a comprehensive response, including targeted sanctions against the military and their partners’ business enterprises; and conditionality on diplomatic, economic and security relations, in order to secure the immediate release of those detained, protection of civilians including those in conflict zones, handover of power to a civilian-controlled parliament, and irreversible reforms that put human rights and democracy at the core of governance and prevent recurrence of such power-grabs;
- Social media companies, in particular Facebook, to suspend the accounts of USDP and military leaders that have used their platforms to spread disinformation, fear, and psychological violence; and
- ASEAN leaders, to use all diplomatic leverage to ensure the rule of law is upheld and the will of the people are respected.