[Repost] 2021 First Quarter News Updates from RWG

6 May 2021

Statement in Solidarity for the Restoration of Democracy and Justice in Myanmar

20 April 2021

MARUAH wishes to congratulate ASEAN for organising an ASEAN Special Summit Meeting on the 24th of April 2021 to discuss Myanmar and find a collective path to restore peace, non-violence, and democracy in the country. We state that this Special Summit is crucially important to the people in Myanmar and for ASEAN as a regional body of 10 member states. We also appreciate Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan for the discussions he had with ASEAN member states of Brunei, Indonesia[1] and Malaysia which have also been working towards this special Summit. We note that call made by ASEAN’s foreign ministers for a halt to the escalating violence and dialogue to end the crisis.[2]

But we need to underscore the importance of having a legitimate representation from Myanmar at the Special Summit meeting, as it is also part of ASEAN’s responsibility to the people in Myanmar and in ASEAN. We are of the view that this dialogue effort to negotiate for an agreement towards non-violence, peace and democracy would be derailed if Myanmar’s junta leader, General Min Aung Hlaing, is the sole representative for Myanmar. We note with concern the announcement made by Thailand that General Min Aung Hlaing is set to attend the ASEAN Special Summit meeting.[3]

The Tatmadaw’s leader, General Min Aung Hlaing, is the key person, responsible for the: coup; denunciation of last year’s legitimate elections where the National League for Democracy (NLD) had won decisively and fairly; ongoing violent assaults on people, continued air raids targeting ethnic groups and the severe restrictions and censorship imposed on the people. The net result is one that shows Myanmar’s people fleeing to other countries, an internal humanitarian crisis, of more than 700 civilians, including 50 children,[4] having been killed by Myanmar’s security forces since February 1st and the possibility of a civil war as 10 of Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups [5]have recently thrown their support behind the movement for democracy, peace and free and fair elections.

Hence, we state that recognising Gen Min Aung Hlaing as Myanmar’s political leader to be the sole representative at the Special Summit, would be a travesty to the rule of law, the principles spelt out in the ASEAN Charter and a gross injustice, a betrayal, to the people in Myanmar, many of whom are willing to die for their country.

We ask instead that the Special Summit asks for representatives from: the National Unity Government (NUG) that has been formed;[6] the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) which is a body formed of elected lawmakers from Myanmar’s ousted civilian government; and the tatmawdaw. This way it also anchors ASEAN as the neutral mediator focused on key political players being at the dialogues. It is also an opportunity for ASEAN to establish itself as the regional body that endorses peace, harmony and democracy in the region as also endorsed in the preamble of the 1976 Treaty of the Amity And Cooperation in Southeast Asia.[7]

In summary, we urge that this ASEAN Special Summit does:

  • include representatives from Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG) and Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH)
  • explicitly state that General Min Aung Hlaing is attending as a representative of the Tatmadaw, not as leader of Myanmar
  • make a clear stand that ASEAN is functioning by the Responsibility to Protect principles and its principles for peace, democracy, and rule of law.

Statement issued by MARUAH Secretariat
20th April 2021


[1] https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/vivian-balakrishnan-meets-indonesian-counterpart-retno-marsudi-in-jakarta

[2] https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/asean-coup-03022021134500.html

[3] https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/myanmars-junta-leader-confirmed-to-attend-asean-meeting-thai-foreign-minister

[4] https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/myanmar-activists-vow-week-of-protests-during-new-year-holidays

[5] https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/myanmar-rebel-groups-back-anti-coup-protests-condemn-junta-crackdown

[6] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/whos-myanmars-national-unity-government.html

[7] “CONVINCED that the settlement of differences or disputes between their countries should be regulated by rational, effective and sufficiently flexible procedures, avoiding negative attitudes which might endanger or hinder cooperation; BELIEVING in the need for cooperation with all peace-loving nations, both within and outside Southeast Asia, in the furtherance of world peace, stability and harmony;”. https://asean.org/treaty-amity-cooperation-southeast-asia-indonesia-24-february-1976/


[Repost] ANFREL’s Monthly Brief on Countries under Restrictive Environment

13 April 2021

ANFREL will start publishing this brief to provide an insight into the human rights and democracy situation in the countries facing democratic regression. In this series, they have covered Cambodia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Hong Kong. Please click on the image below to access the full brief.


In Solidarity for the Restoration of Democracy in Myanmar: A Call to ASEAN

8 April 2021

8th April 2021

By: Tan Yi Han*

Seven year old Khin Myo Chit was sitting on her father’s lap in her home when soldiers killed her. Thinzar Hein was a nursing student who was treating injured protestors at protest sites when she was shot in the head by soldiers. Sixteen year old Kyaw Min Latt was cycling with two others when soldiers in a passing vehicle shot him. 

More than 500 civilians have been killed since the Myanmar military, the Tatmadaw, seized power on 1 February 2021. The highest toll – 141 lost their lives in one day of 27 March. The escalating violence represents not only a humanitarian crisis but threatens regional peace, stability and prosperity. 

ASEAN cannot afford to turn a blind eye to this tragedy. The leaders of ASEAN must act decisively to help Myanmar return peacefully to a democratically-elected civilian government. 

ASEAN has taken encouraging first steps. A statement conveyed by ASEAN Chair, Brunei, summarising the meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers, urged for a “peaceful solution” to the crisis. Also deserving of applause are individual statements issued by Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Singapore urging Myanmar’s military rulers to free Suu Kyi and other political leaders who have been arrested. 

Thailand has called for ASEAN to adopt a “collective stand” on Myanmar. That could happen via the high-level ASEAN meeting of Southeast-Asian leaders proposed by Indonesian President Joko Widodo. It is encouraging that Singapore actively supports such a proposal. as stated by the Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister of Foreign Affairs, 

The Myanmar general election on 8 November 2020, won decisively by the National League for Democracy (NLD), had been praised by election monitors for being a peaceful process and that it was free of major irregularities. The Tatmadaw has a right to raise concerns on the election.  In fact the Union Solidarity Development Party  had filed their complaints in court, making it unnecessary an illegal to resort to violence. The coup and subsequent killings call into question the Tatmadaw’s claim to be defending the Constitution and the will of the people. 

The anti-coup movement continues to grow despite the brutal crackdown, suggesting that the coup is widely condemned by the people of Myanmar. Meanwhile, 10 of Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups have thrown their support behind the anti-coup movement. All signs point to a protracted conflict and further escalation of violence.

The peaceful transition to democracy in 2015 had led to a friendly environment for economic investments, including from fellow ASEAN countries. In fact, Singapore has been the largest investor in the country, with US$24.1 billion in approved foreign capital. The coup is therefore not only disastrous for the country’s economic recovery, but also for the entire region’s economy.

Many from ethnic groups and villagers are fleeing the violence, becoming refugees. What is often forgotten is the pandemic and that Covid-19 is still rife. The Chinese city of Ruili near the Myanmar border has already seen an outbreak of Covid.

The gestures made by ASEAN and some of the countries in ASEAN cannot remain as just the spoken word. In fact, there has been success when ASEAN’s engagement effort, among other efforts, helped to pave the way towards Myanmar’s political reforms under Prime Minister (and later President) Thein Sein, leading eventually, to a peaceful transition of power to a democratically-elected civilian-led government in 2015. 

ASEAN must endeavour to use its unique position and relationship with Myanmar to positively influence the Tatmadaw and mediate between the key political stakeholders: the Tatmadaw, Aung San Suu Kyi and the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, and representatives from the ethnic minorities. 

For negotiations to be successful, however, all parties must see it as the best way forward. That means that ASEAN must make a clear stand that while the Tatmadaw is a key stakeholder in Myanmar, it does not represent the people nor the government of Myanmar. Only decisions collectively agreed by Myanmar’s key political stakeholders should be recognised. 

ASEAN is the best hope for the people of Myanmar. I urge the leaders of ASEAN to:

  • Hold as soon as possible a high-level ASEAN meeting of Southeast-Asian leaders to discuss the Myanmar crisis and adopt a collective stand towards addressing the conflict.
  • Facilitate dialogue between Myanmar’s key political stakeholders;
  • Make a clear stand the Tatmadaw does not represent the people or government of Myanmar, and only collective decisions via peaceful negotiations will be recognised.

ASEAN can do it again. It needs to. ASEAN must.

Further References:

https://www.e-ir.info/2012/02/08/asean-and-the-principle-of-non-interference/

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/commentary/myanmar-coup-asean-non-interference-vivian-bakakrisnan-singapore-14263056

https://opinion.inquirer.net/138046/asean-must-help-myanmars-return-to-democracy

*Opinion Writer for MARUAH

*Edited & Approved by MARUAH


Joint Declaration of the Southeast Asian People-to-People Region Hall on the Crisis in Myanmar

8 April 2021

Please click on the screen shot above for the full statement.


[Repost] List of Civil Society Organisations with Consultative Relationship with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)

26 March 2021

Upon deliberation at the 19th Meeting of the AICHR, the AICHR is pleased to announce the list of CSOs with successful applications for Consultative Relationship with the AICHR as follows:

  1. Child Rights Coalition Asia
  2. MARUAH (Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, Singapore)
  3. Persatuan Penyandang Disabilitas Indonesia
  4. Save the Children Philippines
  5. The Vietnam Peace and Development Foundation

The AICHR looks forward for a meaningful and constructive engagement and interaction with the CSOs with Consultative Relationship to further enhance cooperation in the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

https://aichr.org/news/list-of-civil-society-organisations-with-consultative-relationship-with-the-asean-intergovernmental-commission-on-human-rights-aichr/


IN SOLIDARITY: A CALL FOR ALL PEOPLE IN ASEAN

22 March 2021

(Update – 27 March) – Thank you to everyone who have shared the word, contributed to the collage or are doing your part to spread the word and show support for the people in Myanmar.

We have created a collage based on submissions from our readers. Please do share this video collage with those around you.


THIS CHAPTER: A IN SOLIDARITY CALL TO ALL PEOPLE IN SINGAPORE

Dear Everyone,

We are trying to get MANY, MANY people in Singapore to show their support for the people in Myanmar.

These are the details:

  • February 1st the military (Tatmadaw) in a coup d’état took over rule from an elected government, disregarding the results, the positive comments made by international elections observers or the work done by the Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH)
  • They arrested many elected political leaders, including State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi
  • Millions of Myanmarese protested, many stopped work to join the civil disobedience movement (CDM) to fight for their democracy, freedom and justice. Many young and older persons have said that they are ready to die for their country and freedom.
  • To date (March 21st) 235 people have been killed, mainly from shots to their heads.  Many more injured. More than 2,330 people have been arrested. Myanmar is under martial law set by the military
  • The military is relentless in targeting people, communities, killings, destroying the CDM’s barricades in the many cities around the country and in forcing threatening people to be their human shields in the work against protesters.
  • Some countries have stated they are not recognising the Tatmadaw as the government of Myanmar. Some have imposed sanctions. United Nations has issued statements. So has ASEAN. Some ASEAN member countries have issued stronger statements on this situation. But thoughtful and concerted action remains limited.
  • Some Links given below give a clearer picture of the situation.

What we are asking from you:

A call has been made to people in ASEAN to show solidarity with the people in Myanmar.

As people living in Singapore, we hope you will believe in supporting the people in Myanmar. If so, please do this:

  • take a photo of yourself, holding up the 3-finger salute that Myanmarese are using.
  • Do not make the photo larger than 1megabytes
  • Please send it to maruahsg@gmail.com with the subject – In Solidarity with Myanmar (Photo collage)
  • Please indicate a name in English, if you like, otherwise, the subtitled image will be left anonymous.
  • MARUAH Singapore reserves the right to reject images that are offensive and prejudicial to the intent and spirit of this request.
  • Please submit your photos  by Thursday 25th March by 10.00 pm.
  • Sample image (taken from the Internet)

The collage will be created with some of the following statements:

From Singapore: IN SOLIDARITY With The People In Myanmar

WE ARE:

# AGAINST the Coup d’état and Military takeover in Myanmar

# AGAINST the escalating armed violence by the military

# AGAINST people being killed and injured

#AGAINST Imprisonment, Tortures, Deaths of political leaders, activists, journalists, protesters

# AGAINST THE LACK OF ACTION by International, Regional communities

# FOR Democracy

# FOR Rule of Law

# FOR Humanitarian Aid for the injured and food for the people

# FOR China and Russia to not veto and join the UN Security Council to denounce the military takeover and support action against the military for the coup and the violence

# FOR Targeted Economic Sanctions, Global Travel Bans and Asset Freezes by Governments, Banks and the Private Sector when it comes to military personnel, military-owned companies within the Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Companies and Myanmar Economic Corporation

# FOR a global arms embargo to block supplies and sales of weaponry to the military and other armed groups

Sources:
https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/myanmar-regime-issues-arrest-warrant-crph-intl-envoy-treason-charge.html
https://www.frontiermyanmar.net/en/how-the-cdm-can-win/
https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2021/march/what-next-for-burma
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MdEyuic_SrM&t=3232s
https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/03/15/targeted-sanctions-needed-against-myanmars-coup-leaders
https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/statement/2021-03-15/statement%C2%A0attributable-the-spokesperson-for-the%C2%A0secretary-general-myanmar
https://news.un.org/en/story/2021/03/1086962
http://www.asean2021.bn/Theme/news/iamm-02.03.21.aspx
https://thediplomat.com/2021/03/asean-foreign-ministers-meet-to-discuss-myanmar-crisis/
https://www.mfa.gov.sg/Newsroom/Press-Statements-Transcripts-and-Photos/2021/03/20210322-Min-visit-to-Brunei
https://www.straitstimes.com/world/united-states/un-security-council-agrees-to-condemn-myanmar-violence-urge-military-restraint
https://maruah.org/2021/02/11/statement-of-foreboding-over-the-military-takeover-of-the-government-of-myanmar/

MARUAH is coordinating this In Solidarity action. About MARUAH: https://maruah.org/about/


[Repost] Update of Myanmar Situation (22 February 2021)

23 February 2021

[Joint statement] Open Letter to ASEAN on the situation in Myanmar

19 February 2021

Your Excellencies,

Re: ASEAN’s response to the military coup in Myanmar

As civil society organizations from the ASEAN region, we write to you urging you to use your unique position to influence the situation in Myanmar by taking immediate measures to ensure that the military respects people’s right to peaceful protests and to freedom of expression, that democracy is upheld, and the will of the people respected.

Following the Myanmar military’s illegal seizure of power on 1 February, Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing assumed all legislative, executive, and judicial powers under the newly-established State Administrative Council.

A non-violent pro-democracy movement has since grown nationwide, and the Myanmar authorities have responded by cracking down on fundamental freedoms. Hundreds of senior officials from the National League for Democracy (NLD), pro-democracy activists and human rights defenders have been arrested; mobile phone and Internet communications have been heavily restricted; highly repressive legislation, including a draft Cyber Security Bill and revisions to the Penal Code have been adopted; and restrictions on gatherings imposed.

The Myanmar security forces have also increasingly responded with force against peaceful protesters, using live munitions, water cannons and deploying armored vehicles in cities. Given the abuses committed in the past by the Myanmar military under the command of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, including international crimes against the Rohingya and in other ethnic minority areas, we are seriously concerned about a potentially violent response from the authorities.

We would like to recall to your excellencies the principles of the ASEAN Charter, which includes adhering to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, as well as the respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms. We also recall the recent UN Security Council statement supporting and encouraging regional organizations, in particular ASEAN, to address the situation in Myanmar.

We welcome the ASEAN Chairman’s statement on the situation in Myanmar, later echoed by the representatives of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). In addition, we are encouraged by the calls made by the leaders of Indonesia and Malaysia in seeking a special meeting of ASEAN’s foreign ministers to discuss the situation.

However, we urge you to go further by immediately using all diplomatic leverage at your disposal to ensure that the Myanmar military refrains from using violence and imposing further restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, as well as to establish a comprehensive response that secures long-term democratic and human rights gains.

Recent developments in Myanmar are disastrous for its people, as well as the region as a whole. They create the potential for thousands of people to flee violence and persecution, as well as a volatile regional environment.  

We firmly believe that it is not only crucial, but also in ASEAN’s best interests, to take a strong stance on these urgent and worrying developments. Failure to do so risks further damaging ASEAN’s reputation as an effective regional body that can meaningfully contribute to a strong and viable community of nations.

We draw strength from ASEAN’s productive engagements with Myanmar’s military in the past, most notably in response to the Cyclone Nargis crisis of 2008. We urge ASEAN to recognize that it can be equally helpful to the  people of Myanmar today as it was then.

This is the perfect opportunity for ASEAN to demonstrate its political leverage and push for positive developments.

With this in mind, we urge ASEAN to:

  • Immediately hold an urgent special meeting to call on the Myanmar military to adhere to the principles of the ASEAN Charter, including the principles of democracy, the rule of law, good governance, and respect for the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms by:
    • Immediately and unconditionally releasing all those currently arbitrarily detained;
    • Refraining from using violence against protesters and respecting people’s right to privacy and information, freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly;
    • Allowing parliament to resume, and elected MPs to fulfil their mandate without impediment;
    • Immediately restoring full access to the Internet and all forms of communications; and
    • Immediately allowing all humanitarian aid and health support to resume unimpeded.
  • Collaborate with the UN Security Council and UN Human Rights Council to immediately send a delegation to the country to monitor the situation and help negotiate a democratic and human rights-based solution.
  • Use your position in UN fora, in particular at the UN Security Council and Human Rights Council, to support enhanced monitoring and reporting of the unfolding human rights crisis in Myanmar.
  • Impose targeted financial sanctions on the military as an institution, including its businesses and its associates in a manner that respects human rights and gives due consideration to any negative socio-economic impact on the ordinary civilian population, as recommended by the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar;
  • Impose an embargo on the transfer or sale of military arms and equipment to Myanmar; and
  • Use all diplomatic leverage and establish a comprehensive response to ensure long-term democratic and human rights change in the country, including by ensuring that:
  • The Myanmar armed forces end all violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in ethnic minority and ceasefire areas, and that all civilians are protected;
    • Myanmar guarantees the safe, voluntary and dignified return of displaced communities, including the Rohingya, by lifting all arbitrary and discriminatory restrictions on their access to citizenship, freedom of movement, and access to healthcare, education and livelihood opportunities;
    • Myanmar fully cooperates with the IIMM and complies with the provisional measures ordered by the ICJ; and
    • Institutional and constitutional changes are adopted that would bring the military under civilian control and ensure accountability for human rights violations.

Signatories:

  1. Alliance for Conflict Transformation
  2. ALTSEAN-Burma
  3. Arakan CSO network
  4. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
  5. ASEAN SOGIE Caucus
  6. ASEAN Youth Forum
  7. Asia Justice and Rights
  8. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  9. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
  10. Athan
  11. Backpack Health Workers Team
  12. BALAOD Mindanaw
  13. Burma Medical Association
  14. Burmese Women’s Union
  15. Child Rights Coalition Asia
  16. Chin Human Rights Organization
  17. Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS)
  18. Cross Cultural Foundation
  19. Democracy, Peace and Women Organization
  20. Equality Myanmar
  21. Freedom and Labor Action Group
  22. Generation Wave
  23. Genuine People’s Servants
  24. Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict
  25. Human Rights Educators Network
  26. Human Rights Foundation of Monland
  27. Indonesia Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI)
  28. Initiatives for International Dialogue
  29. Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
  30. Karen Affairs Committee
  31. Karen Environmental and Social Action Network
  32. Karen Grassroots Women Network
  33. Karen Human Rights Group
  34. Karen Peace Support Network
  35. Karen Refugee Committee
  36. Karen Rivers Watch
  37. Karen Student Network Group
  38. Karen Teacher Working Group
  39. Karen Women’s Organization
  40. Karenni Human Rights Group
  41. Karenni National Women’s Organization
  42. Karenni Refugee Committee
  43. Keng Tung Youth
  44. Let’s Help Each Other
  45. Maramagri Youth Network
  46. MARUAH
  47. Myanmar Civil Society Core Group on ASEAN
  48. Myanmar People Alliance
  49. Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma
  50. Olive Organization
  51. Pa-O Women’s Union
  52. Pa-O Youth Organization
  53. Peace Institute
  54. People’s Empowerment Foundation
  55. Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates
  56. Progressive Voice
  57. Pusat KOMAS
  58. Shan MATA
  59. SHAPE-SEA
  60. Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (PROHAM)
  61. Southern Youth Group
  62. Task Force Detainees of the Philippines
  63. The Alliance of Independent Journalists
  64. The Seagull: Human Rights, Peace and Development
  65. Think Centre
  66. Thwee Community Development Network
  67. TRANSCEND Pilipinas
  68. Triangle Women
  69. Women’s League of Burma

[Repost] Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism – January News Updates

11 February 2021

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