Myanmar Update: Continued Citizen Nonviolence Met by Deadly Military Violence

Nonviolent protests against the Myanmar junta, symbolized by the three-finger gesture

Yangon, February 2021: VOA Burmese, Public domain

Last week, on March 11, Thomas H. Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar reported to the President of the United Nations Human Rights Council that at least 70 people have been murdered by Myanmar security forces (the Tatmadaw) since the military junta seized power in an illegal coup d’état on February 1, 2021 (United Nations Human Rights Council).

As Andrews reported,

“those murdered were fathers, sons, mothers, daughters, husbands, and wives. They were educators, they were engineers; they were students, they were many ages, but more than half of those murdered were members of Generation Z, or young people under the age of 25.

It is a horrible truth that as soon as I issue a report, the number of murders and arbitrary detentions in Myanmar become outdated. The junta is detaining dozens, sometimes hundreds, every day. As of last night, the total number of arbitrary arrests and detentions since 1 February had risen beyond 2,000, and the violence against protesters, including violence against people sitting peacefully in their homes, is steadily increasing.”

In the days that have followed, the Tatmadaw has responded to continued nonviolent protests with even greater bloodshed. On Sunday, March 14, they killed 74 protesters; on Monday March 15, they killed another 20. Yesterday, the junta imposed martial law on townships throughout the country, signaling that nonviolent protestors held in custody will be tried under military courts. According Human Rights Watch, “Martial Law Order 2/2021 specifies that those convicted shall be sentenced to death, prison at hard labor for unlimited years, or the highest punishment designated for the crime in existing law.” (Human Rights Watch) UN Special Rapporteur Andrews concluded his report with a call to action:

“Today, I am therefore urging member states to commit to taking strong, decisive, and coordinated action as a coalition of nations – an emergency Coalition for the People of Myanmar.

Upon forming, I urge this coalition of member states to consider five immediate steps:

  1. Stop the flow of revenue into the illegal junta’s coffers. This can happen now. Multilateral sanctions should be imposed on both senior junta leaders and their major sources of revenue, including military owned and controlled enterprises and the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise…
  2. Coalition member states should outlaw the export of arms to the Myanmar military. Forty-one countries have already imposed some form of arms embargo against the Myanmar military. What is needed is a coordinated embargo that will end the sale of weapons and the transfer of dual-use technology to Myanmar. This can save lives.
  3. Member states that have universal jurisdiction laws should initiate investigations of these ongoing crimes and make preparations to file charges against Myanmar’s senior security officials.
  4. Stop the flow of humanitarian and development aid through the junta. Work directly with local civil society and aid organizations whenever possible.
  5. Finally, I urge Member states to deny recognition of the military junta as the legitimate government representing the people of Myanmar precisely because they are not.”

We join human rights and nonviolence organization across the world in supporting unified action by the UN Security Council and the international community in support of the people of Myanmar who are risking their lives every day to protest peacefully to restore democracy and rule of law in their country.

“Despite the widespread and systematic atrocities that the Myanmar military and Police Force are committing daily, the people of Myanmar continue to rise up from every corner of the nation as a diverse yet powerfully unified whole. They are doing so to demand democracy, human rights, an immediate end to the violence and an end to the illegitimate junta. The nonviolent civil disobedience movement, or CDM, is effective and growing, drawing its organic power from the unflinching commitment of the Myanmar people. Myanmar has never appeared to be more unified. But, they need our help and they need it now.”

Gladys Perez