NEW YORK (February 1, 2021) – The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is gravely concerned about the events unfolding in Burma, as the country’s military has seized control of the government and arrested government ministers. HRF calls on the military junta to avoid the use of force, exercise restraint toward civilians, and immediately release the detained individuals.
Burma’s military has detained several high-level politicians and civilian government leaders from the National League for Democracy (NLD) party, including State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, in response to NLD’s landslide victory in the parliamentary election of November 2020. The military continues to dispute the election results, and has announced a year-long state of emergency.
“The military’s actions amount to a serious assault on Burma’s already limited political freedom,” said Joy Park, HRF’s legal counsel for Asia. “The military is dragging the country back into a full-blown dictatorship after years of hope from the Burmese people that the civilian government would be able to slowly democratize the country.”
Since the arrests on the morning of February 1, residents of the country have experienced internet shutdowns, phone outages, and bank closures. Fearful of the military, some have also started removing any flags or symbols supportive of the NLD from their properties. The coup and the military-imposed state of emergency are a dangerous regression in the country’s already-volatile political atmosphere. In 2008, the military agreed to form a civilian government, but oversaw the draft of a new constitution that gave the military 25 percent of all parliament seats, essentially retaining control of any future government policy decisions.
Aung San Suu Kyi is the de facto leader of the civilian government, and was celebrated widely for championing democracy and nonviolence in Burma after decades of rule by the military junta. Her activism catapulted her to international recognition as a symbol of peaceful resistance, human rights, and democracy. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.
However, since her installment as the leader of the civilian government, she has become complicit in the Rohingya genocide by refusing to respond to the crisis. Aung San Suu Kyi has consistently chosen to side with the Burmese military and support its anti-Rohingya rhetoric, referring to the military’s extrajudicial killings of the Rohingya as “clearance operations” and deliberately blocking international efforts to investigate the violence.
“This coup is the result of a collective international failure to respond to the Rohingya genocide and crimes against humanity committed by the military,” said Burmese activist and former political prisoner Wai Wai Nu. “The military was emboldened by the fact that they got away with the genocide, and now believes that they can get away with a coup.”
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.