'Respect will of people': Civil society members write to EAM to call on Myanmar military to restore democracy, peace
On 1 February, the Myanmar military, in a coup, deposed the elected civilian government and declared a year-long state of emergency
Editor's note: On 1 February, the Myanmar military deposed the country's democratically-elected government and put in place a year's state of emergency. The action and subsequent crackdown on anti-coup protests has seen widespread condemnation from across the world.
Meanwhile in India, on Tuesday, a group of 30 prominent names from academia, journalism, law and other civil society circles wrote a joint letter to Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar urging the Government of India to, among other things, call on the Myanmar military to 'respect the will of the people and return to democratic rule' and 'release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and all other civilian political leaders who were detained after the coup, including those held for the protests'.
The letter is reproduced in its entirety below and has not been edited by Firstpost:
Dr S Jaishankar
Minister of External Affairs
Government of India
Date: 8 March, 2021
Subject: Call to the Government of India on Myanmar Situation by Scholars, Writers, Jurists and Civil Society Members
On 1 February, the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw), in an effective coup, deposed the elected civilian government and declared a year-long state of emergency, after alleging that the results of the 8 November 2020 general election were fraudulent. It also arrested President Win Myint, State Counsellor in the former government and Nobel laureate, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, members of the Union Election Commission (UEC), and several other civilian leaders belonging to the National League for Democracy (NLD). The UEC and third-party poll monitors had already dismissed the vote fraud allegations as baseless. Further, legal experts are of the opinion that the takeover was illegal.
Since the coup, hundreds of thousands of people have thronged the streets of Myanmar to protest the takeover. These demonstrations, which have spread to nearly all corners of the country, have turned out to be unprecedented in scale, with a large spectrum of the society - from young students to industrial workers and even bureaucrats - joining in. The collective resistance is now being referred to as a Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM), with various sections of the working population refusing to go to work under military rule.
In response, the military regime has used disproportionate force to crack down on protestors. More than 50 people have been reportedly killed by security forces so far. According to the UN human rights office in Yangon, 18 were killed and 30 wounded on 28 February alone, the bloodiest of all days so far. Then again, on 3 March, at least 38 protestors were reportedly killed by live fire, including 19-year old Kyal Sin. On the same day, there were also reports of forces using sniper and machine gun fire on unarmed crowds.,
The military regime led by a State Administrative Council (SAC) is undertaking a slew of other measures to suppress the protests and force protesting employees to go back to work, including blocking the internet, since platforms like WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook quickly became the preferred means for mass mobilisation and dissemination of information to the outside world. A fixed hour night internet curfew remains in force.
Thousands of people, mostly protest mobilisers, politicians and ordinary CDM protestors, hve been detained in night raids across Myanmar without due process. Despite these, the countrywide CDM continues. So does the regime’s violence towards peaceful mass protests.
The political instability created by the coup in Myanmar can have far-reaching implications not just within Myanmar, but also the region. Notably, it could disrupt the peace processes in India’s sensitive North-east which shares a long land border with Myanmar by opening the space for renewed insurgent activity. It could also push vulnerable civilians to cross over from Myanmar, as has already been reported along the Mizoram-Chin border.
We believe that the coup seriously threatens the ethnic peace process started by the previous administrations in Myanmar, and the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) framework that drew 10 Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) to negotiations.
We are aware of India’s realpolitik constraints but believe that only an elected civilian government and a military that is governed by due civilian oversight in Myanmar can ensure the political, security and economic stability needed for bilateral and regional progress. Therefore, we write in our individual capacity as people deeply concerned about the fate of a close neighbour with whom India has long cultural, historic, trade and political ties.
Recognising the need for an immediate end to the current bloodshed and confrontation, and a restoration of peace, we call on the Government of India, as a long-standing friend of Myanmar and its peoples, to urge the regime to:
1) Respect the will of the people and return to democratic rule.
2) Refrain from using force against peaceful protestors. The right to free speech and expression, of which the right to protest is a corollary, is a human right recognised by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
3) Release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and all other civilian political leaders who were detained after the coup, including those held for the protests.
4) Restore the internet in full and respect freedom of the press.
5) Restore the suspended laws which protect the right to privacy of individual citizens, and prohibit arbitrary arrests, prolonged detentions, and search-and-seizure raids on private property without court orders.
6) Initiate criminal proceedings against security personnel and police officers who have fired or ordered the firing of live rounds at unarmed protestors.
We also call on the Government of India to:
7) Urge Indian companies, including state-owned ones, to immediately suspend all commercial ties and proposed deals/joint ventures with the Myanmar military and all affiliated entities, including the two biggest conglomerates, Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC) and Myanma Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL).
8) Support regional efforts to restore democratic order in Myanmar and urge a restoration of peace.
- Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary
- Saurabh Kumar, Indian Ambassador to Myanmar
- Riva Ganguly Das, Secretary (East)
- Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West)
- Smita Pant, Joint Secretary (Bangladesh Myanmar)
- Priyadharsini R., Under Secretary (Myanmar)
|Sanjoy Hazarika||Author and commentator|
|Angshuman Choudhury||Policy researcher|
|Pradip Phanjoubam||Senior Journalist, Manipur|
|Sanjay Gathia||Senior advocacy expert|
|Bidhayak Das||Senior Journalist, Assam|
|Yaiphaba Kangjam||Travel historian and writer|
|Prasenjit Biswas||Professor, NEHU|
|Mamang Dai||Writer, Arunachal Pradesh|
|Jahnu Barua||Filmmaker and writer|
|Manoranjan Pegu||Trade Union Activist|
|Sukumar Muralidharan||Senior journalist and academic|
|Rita Manchanda||South Asia Forum for Human Rights|
|Harsh Kapoor||South Asia Citizen's Web|
|Tapan Bose||Filmmaker and journalist|
|Subir Bhaumik||Veteran journalist and author on Northeast India|
|Aashish Yadav||Assistant Lecturer, Jindal Global Law School|
|Rupali Samuel||Supreme Court lawyer and rights activist, New Delhi|
|Mohsin Alam Bhat||Assistant Professor, OP Jindal Global University|
|Nayanjoyti Bhuyan||Senior Journalist, Guwahati Assam|
|Abhijit Deb||Senior Journalist, Assam|
|Sushmita Das||Convenor, Social Actions for New Alternatives (SANA)-India, Assam|
|Dr Rahul Chanda||Assistant Professor Mass Communications, Royal Global University, Guwahati|
|Kamal Chakraborty||Citizenship Activist and Writer, Barak Valley, Assam|
|Jenpu Rongmei||Activist and Director CAN-Youth, Nagaland|
|Afreen Bano Khan||Advocate, Bombay High Court|
|Aman||Assistant Professor of Legal Practice, Jindal Global Law School|
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