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Joint Open Letter: Urgent call for swift action against the military junta to end its war of terror and protect civilians in Myanmar

01/02/2024

Joint Open Letter: Urgent call for swift action against the military junta to end its war of terror and protect civilians in Myanmar

To Members of the United Nations Security Council

1 February 2024

Re: Urgent call for swift action against the military junta to end its war of terror and protect civilians in Myanmar

Your Excellencies,

As we mark the third anniversary of the Myanmar military junta’s coup attempt on 1 February 2021, we, 463 civil society organizations, express in the strongest terms our utmost disappointment in the ineffectiveness and inaction of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in response to the military junta’s war of terror against the people of Myanmar. We urgently call on the UNSC to act in accordance with its mandate for peace and security and take concrete actions against the Myanmar military junta. These actions must reflect the gravity of the mass atrocity crimes committed by the junta for which the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has called on the UNSC to, among other measures, refer the crisis in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.

We find that the UNSC’s adoption of Resolution 2669, which passed its one-year mark in December 2023, not only came too little and far too late – after decades of atrocities by the Myanmar military – but also produced no concrete progress towards halting the military’s genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, which have only intensified since the adoption of the resolution.

Since its adoption, the military junta has launched at least 909 airstrikes,[1] killing more than 364 civilians including scores of children, and torched nearly 80,000 houses. Over the last year, it is undeniable that the military junta’s violence has become more targeted against civilian populations with blatant attacks on villages, towns, internally displaced persons (IDPs) camps, religious sites where IDPs were seeking refuge, schools, and hospitals. Since the coup attempt, the military junta has killed at least 4,450 people and arrested more than 25,900 people, with more than 19,900 individuals still detained, including President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Inhuman conditions, ill treatment, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, and extrajudicial killings remain ubiquitous in junta-controlled prisons and detention centers.

Furthermore, the military junta has insisted on a pilot repatriation project for the Rohingya, despite the UNSC expressing concern that the situation in Myanmar poses challenges for a safe, voluntary, sustainable, and dignified return. Resolution 2669 does not recognize the Myanmar military as a government or a de facto authority to carry out such a repatriation project. A sustainable, safe, and dignified return of Rohingya is impossible while the illegitimate Myanmar military junta continues to conduct a nationwide campaign of terror, including in Rakhine State where many more Rohingya are being forced to flee overland and by sea – with 2023 being the deadliest year for Rohingya’s sea crossings since 2014.

Your Excellencies,

The UNSC has wrongly relied on ASEAN and its failed Five-Point Consensus (5PC), instead of upholding its responsibility to pursue meaningful and effective measures to address the military’s unprecedented violence targeting civilians. This approach has only proven harmful to Myanmar’s people – all the while civil society has repeatedly called out its total ineffectiveness. ASEAN’s futile 5PC has only served to allow the junta to buy time and continue its war of terror, and the world to evade taking concrete, meaningful action. Even though Myanmar’s crisis is an ongoing threat to regional peace and stability, ASEAN has shown time and again that it lacks the political will and institutional capacity to address the unfathomable devastation in Myanmar caused by the military junta. For the two and a half years since the adoption of the 5PC, this approach has failed to yield any meaningful results, and the people of Myanmar have paid the price. The time is long overdue for the UNSC and the wider international community to take the lead – no longer deferring to ASEAN – and act decisively to end the junta’s widespread, systematic violence and atrocity crimes.

Today, dire humanitarian needs are alarmingly increasing across the country, with more than 2.6 million people having been displaced – a number that is likely a gross underestimation given the military junta’s intensified attacks on civilians and constraints on access to IDP communities. Civil society has repeatedly called on international actors, including ASEAN, UN agencies, and international non-governmental organizations, to cease any attempts at partnership with the junta in the name of humanitarian aid. Partnering with the military junta only exacerbates the crisis at hand, including by allowing the junta to continue to block aid from reaching the populations under its attacks. While fueling the junta’s notorious weaponization of aid, partnering with the junta also undercuts the effective and efficient work of countless local frontline humanitarians, as well as civil society organizations, community-based organizations, and ethnic organizations providing life-saving assistance on the ground.

Excellencies, the UN’s and ASEAN’s continued push for dialogue involving the military junta fails to acknowledge the Myanmar military as the root cause of the crisis, thus empowering the junta to continue to commit atrocity crimes with complete impunity and prolonging its oppression of the people. Further, pursuing dialogue with the military junta, while enabling its ongoing war of terror against the people, only undermines the Myanmar people’s unprecedented sacrifices and efforts to build genuine federal democracy from the ground up.

On the third anniversary of the Myanmar military junta’s attempted coup, we are reminded once again of the absence of substantial, meaningful actions from the international community to stop the military’s genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity – ongoing for decades against ethnic communities and being committed with greater intensity against Myanmar’s people today.

Thus, without delay, we call on the UNSC to live up to its mandate and fulfill its primary responsibility to protect the people of Myanmar by urgently adopting a new resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Such a resolution must require a referral of the crisis in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court or the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal; a comprehensive global arms embargo to block the military junta’s access to arms, ammunition, dual-use technology, and jet fuel; and targeted economic sanctions against the military junta, its affiliates, and its sources of revenue that fund its crimes.

There shall be no excuses to delay this action. With its track record of resolutions focused on the protection of civilians across the world, including Resolutions 1325 and 2147, among others, the UNSC certainly can and has taken concrete steps in accordance with its global mandate. It must now afford the same resolve and action to the people of Myanmar and their earnest pursuit of inclusive, sustainable peace.

Furthermore, we call on China and Russia – as permanent members of the UNSC who agreed to Resolution 2669 – to cease providing political, technical, and material support to the military junta for its relentless war of terror against the people and instead support the people’s efforts for a genuine federal democracy.

Myanmar’s future can only be defined by the will of the people, not the misguided initiatives of the international community. The people of Myanmar have bravely and courageously proven their aspirations and determination to end the military’s decades-long violence and to achieve long-lasting peace in Myanmar where people of diverse backgrounds can co-exist with equal rights and dignity in a truly inclusive federal democracy. It is time for the international community, particularly the UNSC, to align itself with the will of the people of Myanmar through swift, meaningful action. We reiterate our demand for a new UNSC resolution on Myanmar under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.

Signed by 463 civil society organizations, including 84 organizations that have chosen not to disclose their names because of the junta’s continued violence in Myanmar.

See the full list of signatories here.

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ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) was founded in June 2013 with the objective of promoting democracy and human rights across Southeast Asia. Our founding members include many of the region's most progressive Members of Parliament (MPs), with a proven track record of human rights advocacy work.

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