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Southeast Asian parliamentarians call for women, ethnic people to have greater say in the future of a democratic Myanmar

03/07/2023

Southeast Asian parliamentarians call for women, ethnic people to have greater say in the future of a democratic Myanmar

CHIANG MAI – The Myanmar pro-democracy movement must listen to the calls of women and ethnic people and their vision for federalism, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights said today.

On 29 June, APHR held a closed-door meeting with women human rights defenders and activists from Myanmar civil society groups in Chiang Mai, Thailand as part of a series of discussions that aim to provide a platform for gendered perspectives on the crisis in the country, including topics such as federalism, patriarchy, and ethnic inclusion. 

As long as there has been a civil war in Myanmar, there has been a struggle for ethnic autonomy, including the rights to their land, language, health care, education and traditions. For women, in addition to the fight for ethnic equality, has also been for gender equality. In the current context of post-coup Myanmar, new challenges have emerged and a new struggle for equality across all genders and ethnicities. 

The commitment and dedication of women to Myanmar’s struggle for democracy is evident across the movement,” said APHR Board Member and former Thai foreign minister Kasit Piromya. “Federalism cannot exist in Myanmar without democracy, and certainly not without the contributions of women.”

The history of Burma is rooted in ongoing conflict. When we look at the creators of conflict, it is very clear it is the Myanmar junta. Women have always been involved in revolutionary acts because we believe in genuine peace,” said Moon Nay Li,  Joint General Secretary of the Women’s League of Burma . 

While pro-democracy bodies, including the National Unity Government, the National Unity Consultative Council and the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, have called for federalism to defeat the junta, women-led organizations and activists are advocating for a future that is gender-equal as well as federal.

Too often, women are told that their pursuits for gender equality are of lesser importance amidst the shared struggle to defeat the junta. These struggles are interconnected as the commitment to end military rule is rooted in ending patriarchal norms and institutions,” said APHR member and member of the Philippine House of Representatives Arlene Brosas. “Women’s rights defenders are critical actors in the pro-democracy movement, and their voices must be amplified to ensure their needs are met and perspectives are heard.”

During the meeting, the women human rights defenders and activists were very clear that more reflection needed to be done on how the ‘pro-democracy’ movement is currently progressing. For many, this includes inner work, primarily from the Bamar majority, on how to ‘unlearn’ certain attitudes and beliefs which stem from Burmanization, Buddhism and the patriarchy. Calls were also made to the international community to engage with pro-democracy stakeholders, and not the terrorist regime. 

The international community, including ASEAN, must support women human rights defenders and their calls for a more inclusive vision of federalism in Myanmar. Defeating the junta is imperative, but without the participation of women and ethnic people, a democratic Myanmar cannot be sustainable,” said APHR Chair and member of Indonesian House of Representatives Mercy Barends.

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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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