February 11, 2021
MARUAH unequivocally condemns the military takeover of Myanmar on February 1, 2021.
The Tatmadaw (military) overthrew the elected government of Myanmar, detained government leaders, civil service officers, activists and human rights rights defenders, imposed a year-long Emergency on the country and has blocked intermittently access to Internet. To date the military has given no official data on the state of well-being of the elected leaders of the Myanmar government, their locations, the number of people arrested and information on who have been arrested.
The Tatmadaw acted deliberately and intentionally. This is a coup d’état. The fragile democracy in Myanmar is in tatters. Military personnel have become the new political leaders of the country. The military supporters and members of the Union Solidarity and Development Party and Buddhist nationalists jointly presented themselves as custodians of Buddhism in the 2020 General Elections, saying that the National League Democracy political party as being anti-Buddhism. Currently this joint force is patrolling the streets alongside uniformed soldiers and police to arrest, threaten and beat-up thousands of protesters in the streets. People in Myanmar are saying clearly that they do not wish to be under military rule as they had experienced it over 50 years (1962-2011). The Tatmadaw in the past had suppressed Buddhism, resulting in the 2007 Saffron Revolution, but now has an ally in the Buddhist Nationalists. Reports are coming in on protesters being arrested, beaten, tear-gassed and shot at across Myanmar, in Naypyidaw, Bago, Magway and Mandalay. MARUAH finds this new kinship between Buddhist nationalists and the military disconcerting as its puts into jeopardy the lives, safety and well-being of people of different religious beliefs amongst the 135 ethnic groups as well as the Rohingyas.
MARUAH also recalls the people’s experiences when the country was under successive military regimes. They were times of long imprisonments, solitary confinements, tortures, extreme poverty, starvation, lack of medical attention, low development, fear and distrust. In recent years we saw the persecution of the Rohingyas, many of whom fled the country. The track record of the past and current governments has been to uphold Myanmar’s sovereignty in the face regional and international interventions on human rights violations and to dismiss the UN reports as being biased and hypocritical. Universally, we presided over an impasse as a million refugees continued
to live in poor conditions and the incessant armed conflicts between the Tatmadaw and rebel forces, resulting in deaths, injuries, rapes and destructions of homes. MARUAH emphasises this blatant disregard shown by the Myanmar governments to abide by the Responsibility to Protect principles. MARUAH also deplores the indifference given to protecting people against Covid-19 in this planned coup.
MARUAH has been in solidarity with many civil society actors in expressing their deep concerns over this 10-day-old takeover. But we make this statement, appealing for a deeper cognizance of the character of the people in Myanmar and for actions to protect them. They are, by thousands, in the streets picking up the cudgels to fight for their democracy and to be governed by an elected government, not a military force that usurped the power. They are reaching out to the global community, risking their safety, to share detailed accounts on what is going on in the country.
We appreciate deeply the prompt response from our own government, Singapore, as well as statements from Association of Southeast Nations’ (ASEAN) leaders and the United Nations. We are particularly pleased that United States of America and New Zealand have declared that they will not recognise the new government of Myanmar. We have also noted reports emerging from both state-level and private sector investments and business partnerships in Myanmar. Based on the series of crimes against humanity over 50 years, the lack of culpability by the government of Myanmar, and the resilience of the people in Myanmar in fighting for their freedom and rights, MARUAH urges strongly that we cannot become witnesses to a blood bath in Myanmar. MARUAH asks for a deeper commitment, beyond the suggested meetings to seek negotiation and reconciliation with the Tatmadaw. We ask for a clear course of steps that underscore the unacceptability of this coup, the non-recognition of the Tatmadaw as the government and that economic partnerships be reviewed. To prevent an escalation into a civil war and to protect the people, we humbly make a call for governments, ASEAN and the UN, to:
- fundamentally, focus on protecting the people of Myanmar whose security and freedom are under threat;
- develop access routes on funding and prepare safe places as people are fleeing Myanmar to seek refuge in other countries;
- ask for information on prisoners and their release;
- ensure that people in Myanmar have an unfettered access to Internet and communication tools, with an understanding that social media platforms will suspend harbingers of ‘hate speeches’;
- reaffirm the principles of democracy and fair play as a rule of law and conduct as prescribed in the ASEAN Charter and United Nations Declaration of Human Rights;
- officially, not recognise the Tatmadaw as the government of Myanmar;
- institute a process for an interim government of multi-stakeholder representatives, including some military officials to be set up;
- institute a neutral and independent body of global experts on a fact-finding mission to ascertain if there was electoral fraudulence;
- appoint a UN Special Rapporteur to investigate and document the human rights situation in Myanmar;
- recommend UN bodies and International Criminal Court to issue an Inquiry on the Tatmadaw, based on charges of the coup d’etat and crimes against humanity;
- review the nature of investments made in Myanmar and abide by the principles of ethical investing, ethical business conduct, and put in place targeted sanctions against the military and their partners’ enterprises;
- impose an embargo on the arms trade into Myanmar;
- build on an alliance with China to be a partner in non-recognition of the military-led government of Myanmar.
Issued by MARUAH Singapore.
About MARUAH Singapore
We are a Singapore human rights NGO.
MARUAH means Dignity in Malay, Singapore’s national language. Human rights are all about maintaining, restoring and reclaiming one’s dignity at the individual, regional and international level.
We seek to:
- promote and raise awareness, knowledge and understanding of human rights and human rights and related issues at the national, regional and international levels, in Singapore, ASEAN and elsewhere
- provide a civil society perspective on human rights and related issues at the national, regional, and international levels
- advocate for and work towards the respect for and upholding of human rights in accordance with international and other norms
- foster national, regional, and international co-ordination and development of all activities in relation to human rights and related issues facilitate the education, participation and
- engagement of persons, groups and organisations in Singapore with respect to human rights and related issues.
MARUAH is also the Singapore focal point for the Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism. The Working Group has national representatives from all of the founding Member States of ASEAN, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand.
The Working Group is an NGO officially recognised in the ASEAN Charter as a stakeholder in ASEAN.
3 February 2021
On 1 February, the armed forces of Myanmar (Tatmadaw), ostensibly acting on allegations of voter fraud in the general elections of 8 November 2020, detained numerous government officials, including State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint, and Union Election Commission (UEC) Chair U Hla Thein, as well as pro-democracy activists and politicians from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) and other parties.
The Tatmadaw subsequently announced that it would seize power, declare a one-year state of emergency, and install Vice-President and retired general U Myint Swe as acting president. It was also announced that new elections would be held after the state of emergency under a new election commission, which was later appointed on the night of 2 February.
The undersigned election or human rights monitoring organizations condemn the military coup in Myanmar and call for the immediate release of all detained politicians, government officials, and activists. The Tatmadaw must restore power to the civilian-led government, and seek redress of election-related complaints through the due process of law established under the 2008 Constitution.
Indeed, Myanmar’s Constitution and election laws provide a mechanism to resolve disputes in the form of election tribunals. The military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), which has repeatedly made claims of vote rigging and irregularities in the recent general elections, has like any other stakeholder the legal right to formally contest election results. It certainly has done so, filing 174 complaints out of the 287 received by the UEC.
Election observers were looking forward to seeing all election-related complaints and potential evidence presented and addressed in tribunal proceedings. According to our information, the UEC was about to proceed with the appointment of election tribunals when the military intervened. Election dispute resolution is an integral part of any electoral process, which rests on the fundamental premise that all sides act in good faith.
Therefore, the Tatmadaw must back down from its coup attempt and instead engage in a peaceful and transparent election dispute resolution process. The road to a fully realized democracy is long and arduous, but it is important that all stakeholders commit to upholding and protecting democratic norms. A repeat of what transpired after the 1990 general elections would mark a stark return to authoritarianism and will not be accepted by the people of Myanmar and the international community.
- Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL)
- Association for Elections and Democracy (PERLUDEM), Indonesia
- Cambodian Human Rights Action Coalition (CHRAC)
- Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC)
- Cambodian Institute for Democracy (CID)
- Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
- Center for Alliance of Labor and Human Rights (CENTRAL), Cambodia
- Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), Sri Lanka
- Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA), Sri Lanka
- Citizen Congress Watch (CCW), Taiwan
- Civil Network OPORA, Ukraine
- Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0), Malaysia
- Coalition of Cambodian Farmers Community (CCFC)
- Committee for Free and Fair Elections in Cambodia (COMFREL)
- East and Horn of Africa Election Observers Network (E-HORN)
- Elections Observation Group (ELOG), Kenya
- ENGAGE, Malaysia
- Free and Fair Election Forum (FEFA), Afghanistan
- Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN), Pakistan
- General Election Observation Committee (GEOC)/Nepal Law Society
- Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors (GNDEM)
- Hong Kong Election Observation Project (HKEOP)
- Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), Cambodia
- Independent Election Monitoring Committee (KIPP), Indonesia
- Jaringan Pendidikan Pemilih untuk Rakyat (JPPR), Indonesia
- Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE), Philippines
- MARUAH (Working Group for ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism, Singapore)
- Movement for Free & Fair Elections (MDDE), Sri Lanka
- National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL), Philippines
- National Election Observation Committee (NEOC), Nepal
- National Election Watch Sierra Leone (NEWSL)
- Neutral & Impartial Committee for Free & Fair Elections in Cambodia (NICFEC)
- Open Forum for Democracy Foundation (P-NET), Thailand
- People Center for Development and Peace (PDP-Center), Cambodia
- People’s Action for Free and Fair Elections (PAFFREL), Sri Lanka
- Pusat KOMAS, Malaysia
- Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
- Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma (TACDB)
- Tindak Malaysia
- Transparency International Cambodia
- Transparency Maldives
- Transparent Election Foundation of Afghanistan (TEFA)
- We Watch, Thailand
- West Africa Election Observers Network (WAEON)
- Women for Social Progress (WSP), Mongolia
- Youth Resource Development Program (YRDP), Cambodia
The Secretary-General strongly condemns the detention of State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint and other political leaders on the eve of the opening session of Myanmar’s new Parliament. He expresses his grave concern regarding the declaration of the transfer of all legislative, executive and judicial powers to the military. These developments represent a serious blow to democratic reforms in Myanmar.
The 8 November 2020 general elections provide a strong mandate to the National League for Democracy (NLD), reflecting the clear will of the people of Myanmar to continue on the hard-won path of democratic reform. The Secretary-General urges the military leadership to respect the will of the people of Myanmar and adhere to democratic norms, with any differences to be resolved through peaceful dialogue. All leaders must act in the greater interest of Myanmar’s democratic reform, engaging in meaningful dialogue, refraining from violence and fully respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The Secretary-General reaffirms the unwavering support of the United Nations to the people of Myanmar in their pursuit of democracy, peace, human rights and the rule of law.
Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General
- ASEAN Member States have been closely following the current developments in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar.
- We recall the purposes and the principles enshrined in the ASEAN Charter, including, the adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
- We reiterate that the political stability in ASEAN Member States is essential to achieving a peaceful, stable and prosperous ASEAN Community.
- We encourage the pursuance of dialogue, reconciliation and the return to normalcy in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar.