Yesterday marked two years since the military coup in Myanmar, which overthrew the democratically elected government – the National Unity Government (NUG) – and plunged the country into chaos and violence. Since then, the military has committed atrocity crimes against the Myanmar people, as the indiscriminate use of violence against civilians and the arbitrary detentions, torture and extrajudicial killings of ordinary citizens and human rights defenders have become commonplace. Many women-led civil disobedience movements emerged in response to the coup, raising particular concerns for the situation of women human rights defenders in the country today.
The junta recently renewed its assault on democracy on 26 January 2023 when it passed the Political Parties Registration Law which creates burdensome registration requirements for parties, seemingly in a bid to prevent any genuine opposition ahead of the sham elections planned later this year and consolidate the junta’s power. The last 24 months also made apparent the ineffectiveness of ASEAN in addressing the violence on the ground and the escalating crisis – in its political, human rights and humanitarian aspects – thus emboldening the junta with severe consequences for the Myanmar people. Pushbacks of vulnerable Myanmar refugees, including at-risk human rights defenders, by Thai authorities were also reported.
In light of this, we reiterate our October 2022 call – along with 456 other civil society organizations – for the ASEAN bloc to recognize the NUG as the legitimate government of Myanmar, fully disengage with the junta, review the mandate of the ASEAN Special Envoy and take urgent and effective action to address the needs of the Myanmar people. We also call on ASEAN countries to uphold the rights of those fleeing persecution and to guarantee safe passage and protection to human rights defenders fleeing to neighboring countries, paying special attention to the specific situation of women human rights defenders. We further echo the call of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar for strong, coordinated action by UN Member States, on “the systematic gross human rights violations — amounting to war crimes and crimes against humanity — being perpetrated daily on the people of Myanmar by an illegal military junta”.