By Women’s Peace Network
This 1 February marked three years after the day on which the Burmese military attempted to topple an elected government.
Since then, the military has aggressively launched atrocities of a growing scale and frequency against the people of Myanmar for resisting its unlawful, attempted coup.
The military has also arbitrarily arrested and detained at least 25,931 civilians in prisons, interrogation centres, and related facilities – all of which continue to confine at least 3,771 women and target them with sexual and gender-based violence and torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
- Sign up for Aliran's free daily email updates or weekly newsletters or both
- Make a one-off donation to Persatuan Aliran Kesedaran Negara, CIMB a/c 8004240948
- Make a pledge or schedule an auto donation to Aliran every month or every quarter
- Become an Aliran member
Such heinous acts resulted in the killings of at least 1,588 civilians, including young people, women human rights defenders and pro-democracy activists. The military has also unlawfully sentenced at least 119 political prisoners to death.
And, as was demonstrated by its response to Cyclone Mocha, the military has further denied civilians full, unhindered and unfettered access to humanitarian aid.
Such brutalities resulted in the total number of killings of at least 4,474 people – including over 578 children under the age of 18 – and about four million of its survivors becoming internally displaced persons and over 1.3 million of them becoming refugees.
The Burmese military is continuing to act in ways that clearly violate international law, conventions and norms.
Many more of the military’s atrocities likely amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes, according to the office of the UN high commissioner for human rights, the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar and the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.
The military’s acts may also be in contravention of the provisional measures that were issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Gambia v Myanmar in relation to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
Since its attempted coup, the Burmese military has used its so-called authority over its administration to issue measures furthering its control of the welfare, marriage, security and movement of the 600,000 Rohingya remaining in the country, including the 140,000 confined in camps for internally displaced persons.
In three years, the military has arbitrarily arrested and detained over 3,821 Rohingya, including at least 1,132 women and 163 children. The military’s armed conflict in Rakhine state is also risking Rohingya civilians with injuries, killings and the commission of other life-threatening abuses against them.
Such crimes follow the Burmese military’s decades of atrocities against the country’s ethnic and religious minorities that have been reported as likely amounting to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and – against Rohingya – genocide by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.
As Myanmar’s human rights and humanitarian crisis exacerbates, many more of its civilians are forced to flee and face precarious conditions abroad.
Across South and Southeast Asia, they are being denied full access to documentation and other forms of legal support that may protect them from indefinite detention, physical and online surveillance, or forcible deportation to Myanmar.
In Bangladesh, one million Rohingya refugees continue to be denied proper access to food, shelter, healthcare, education, employment and other basic human needs. The camps’ exacerbating gang and militant violence, mass fires, armed police battalion’s abuses, and many other life-threatening conditions are rapidly compromising the refugees’ access to protection and forcing them to risk human trafficking, bribery and extortion, torture and sexual violence, indefinite detention, and targeted hate campaigns over lands and seas.
According to the office of the UN high commissioner for refugees, 2023 was the “deadliest year” for Rohingya refugees crossing the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal.
Three years since the Burmese military’s attempted coup, nearly seven years since its attacks of genocide and decades into its commission of atrocities, the world must immediately prevent Myanmar’s current human rights and humanitarian crisis from further escalating.
As was demonstrated by the recent “Operation 1027”, the military evidently is not the powerful body that many international and regional actors deem it to be. Now is the time for the world to unite its forces against the Burmese military and end the plight of Myanmar’s people once and for all.
Therefore, we, Women’s Peace Network, demand the following actions to be urgently taken.
- Countries to hold the Burmese military accountable for its decades-long crimes by helping bring justice and accountability in Myanmar including by supporting The Gambia at its case against Myanmar at the ICJ and exploring universal jurisdiction to prosecute the military for its international crimes, as well as issuing targeted economic sanctions and financial penalties against the military and banning the supply of arms and aviation fuel to the military and its proxies
- Governments in South and Southeast Asia, as well as member states of Asean, to ensure full and reliable access to livelihoods and protection to all civilians seeking refuge from Myanmar, including by enabling cross-border humanitarian assistance to Myanmar’s civilians and preventing their indefinite detention and forcible deportation
- For Rohingya refugees in particular, the governments should allow for the safe disembarkment of boats carrying them, deploy search-and-rescue missions to them, and prevent the spread of hate speech and disinformation campaigns against them
- Following S/RES/2669(2022), the UN Security Council to issue a new resolution, in line with its mandate under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, that includes targeted economic sanctions and a global arms embargo against the Burmese military, as well as a referral of the situation of Myanmar to the International Criminal Court. The council should also call for a special meeting regarding Myanmar on any potential violations of The Gambia v Myanmar’s provisional measures from the ICJ
- The UN secretariat to implement the recommendations outlined by the “Rosenthal report” in 2019, particularly by developing a unifying strategy for the secretary general and UN bodies in their response to Myanmar. The secretariat should also ensure that his special envoy to Myanmar role be held by an individual who respects the will of Myanmar’s people
- Donor governments and organisations to provide direct financial and material assistance to Burmese civil society(including community-based organisations and women’s groups), especially by implementing flexible funding mechanisms with maximum adaptability and optimal support
- The international community, as a whole, to engage with the Burmese pro-democracy movement(including the “national unity government” and the National Unity Consultative Council) and diverse ethnic communities over the Burmese military when addressing the situation of Myanmar
Women’s Peace Network