Myanmar marked Human Rights Day on 10 December with a nationwide silent protest against military rule.
People all over the country held one of the biggest national protests in months when they closed their businesses and stayed at home.
The courageous people of Myanmar are continuing their protests despite military junta’s increasing violence.
The military ousted the democratically elected government of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on 1 February. Now facing a slew of charges, she was convicted and jailed for two years in the first judgment delivered recently.
Demonstrators wore black and marched silently in the streets – perhaps influenced by icons of peaceful non-violence resistance like the late Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
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Those at home too followed suit, holding up three fingers in a defiant sign of opposition against the current occupiers of the government in Naypyidaw.
Human Rights Day in Myanmar was deeply disturbing, coming in the wake of rising human rights abuses, including the appalling massacre of civilians in Salingyi in Sagaing region on Tuesday. According to Geneva-based UN human rights spokesperson Rupert Colville, the junta forces killed 11 people, including five children, whose charred bodies were later discovered.
Prior to this gruesome killing, junta forces in Kyimyindaing town crashed a vehicle into unarmed protesters and opened fire on them, leaving several casualties.
Heinous crimes like those happening in Myanmar are totally unacceptable in any civilised society.
The UK-based Myanmar Accountability Project (MAP) has presented verification to the International Criminal Court, accusing coup leader and head of the country’s military government, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, of crimes against humanity.
In a statement on Friday, the MAP advised the ICC to begin a criminal investigation into the extensive and regular torture inflicted on innocent people in Myanmar.
Meanwhile, UN independent experts say “a brute force terror campaign” is being directed at human rights defenders.
“The leader of the illegal coup is criminally responsible for the security forces under his command committing mass atrocity crimes,” MAP director Chris Gunness said.
“The prospects of a conviction are good and we believe that grounds for issuing an arrest warrant against Min Aung Hlaing are overwhelming.”
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights group that documents and compiles fatalities under the military coup, over 1,323 people have been killed so far, and some 10,800 have been arrested.
The military regime is increasingly using lethal tactics and even battlefield weapons against peaceful protesters and onlookers across the country, Amnesty International observed.
The human rights group has authenticated over 50 videos from the ongoing crackdown. Its international crisis evidence lab can confirm that security forces appear to be implementing planned, systematic strategies, including the ramped-up use of lethal force. Many of the killings documented are tantamount to extrajudicial executions.
“These Myanmar military tactics are far from new, but their killing sprees have never before been livestreamed for the world to see,” Joanne Mariner, Amnesty’s crisis response director, said.
Ethnic minorities in Myanmar – including the Chin, Kachin, Karen, Rakhine, Rohingya, Shan and Ta’ang – have faced the brunt of Tatmadaw-inflicted violence.
Amnesty, along with like-minded rights groups, has requested the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court, and bring the Tatmadaw’s senior commanders, including Min Aung Hlaing, to justice.
Regrettably, the Security Council has done nothing, and today we see the same military junta indiscriminately turning their fire on innocent protesters who just want to enjoy human rights and civil liberties like other citizens in the free world.
The international community must take more concrete action to avert further persecution of the gallant people of Myanmar who have suffered so much for so long. Surely, we do not want to witness more mass killings in Southeast Asia.
Asean should be commended for not inviting Myanmar to its recent meeting. Myanmar’s presence at the meeting would have given legitimacy to an illegitimate regime. Sadly, however, Cambodia, which assumes the chair of Asean next year, has indicated it would press for the inclusion of Myanmar in future Asean meetings.
Sources: Vatican News and Amnesty International