Myanmar - urgent action by the international community is needed

1 April 2021

The continued brutal crackdown by the Myanmar military against unarmed and peaceful protesters is a horrifying atrocity that must be brought to an end. The Socialist International is appalled by the systematic targeting of civilians by the security forces, who are murdering protestors on the streets and in their homes, and using assault, torture and mass detentions in inhumane conditions to try to suppress the uprising. The unrelenting bravery shown by all those protesting in Myanmar in spite of the severe danger to life is a source of both great concern and inspiration for democrats across the world, and the SI reiterates its full solidarity with those risking everything to stand up for civilian rule, democracy and human rights in Myanmar.

The death toll since the coup has tragically exceeded five hundred in recent days and continues to grow, including over a hundred people in one day on Saturday 26 March. Among the victims are a number of young children and teenagers whose lives have been cut dreadfully short and many more who have lost parents, friends, relatives and mentors and been exposed to harrowing and traumatic events that will leave deep emotional and psychological scars. The deliberate killing of men, women and children with live ammunition rounds aimed at the head and upper body is a travesty of human rights and a deeply criminal act. For too long the military in Myanmar has been able to act with impunity. It will continue to do so unless both the perpetrators of these criminal acts and those who have ordered the use of deadly force against protesters are held to account, as well as those responsible for past crimes, including atrocities against the Rohingya and other minorities.

The international community has overwhelmingly reacted with shock, horror and anger at the massacres taking place in Myanmar, but widespread condemnation and sanctions have not been sufficient to bring an end to the bloodshed. The state of Myanmar, currently under the illegitimate control of the military junta, is not simply failing in its responsibility to protect its people from atrocities but is directly responsible for these outrages and as such it is incumbent upon the international community to act in line with the UN Charter to protect civilian populations, with the cooperation of regional partners such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Myanmar’s neighbours must be ready to offer humanitarian assistance to those fleeing the terror in their country, by giving sanctuary to those seeking asylum from indiscriminate violence against civilians.

Though the most pressing concern is an immediate halt to the violence and loss of life in Myanmar, as the SI has previously urged, it is also imperative for the future of the country that the results of the democratic election in November 2020 are upheld and the government chosen by the people is reinstated. The tragic events of the last two months are a further reminder of the urgent need for reform in Myanmar to restrict the power of the military, who have once more shown their willingness to use force to rapidly reverse and overturn the steady progress made towards democracy in recent years. It remains evident that a deeper transformation is needed to remove the grip still held on the country by the military leadership, ensure accountability and guarantee the rights of the political opposition, steps which are a prerequisite for Myanmar to realise its long-awaited transition to full democracy, with equal rights for all its citizens, regardless of religion or ethnic group.

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