Rights groups speak out against Myanmar coup

Following the military coup in Myanmar on Monday morning (1 February), Amnesty International, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), and the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) have all issued statements of concern about the coup and the arrest of politicians and activists.

Three students standing on the Pathumwan Skywalk, Bangkok, holding signs saying "#SaveMyanmar," "We are against the coup in Myanmar," and "#StandwithMyanmar"

Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director, said that the arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior officials and political figures is “extremely alarming” and that those detained must be immediately released unless they can be charged with “a recognizable criminal offence under international law.” The military must also disclose information about where they are being detained and respect their rights, as well as granting them access to lawyers, family members, and medical care.

Amnesty International called for the military to “exercise restraint, abide by international human rights and humanitarian law and for law enforcement duties to be fully resumed by the police force at the earliest opportunity,” as well as for full phone and internet services to be resumed immediately, as the telecommunication blackout poses further threats to the population.

“This is an ominous moment for people in Myanmar, and threatens a severe worsening of military repression and impunity. The concurrent arrests of prominent political activists and human rights defenders sends a chilling message that the military authorities will not tolerate any dissent amid today’s unfolding events,” said Hah.

FIDH and its partner organization ALTSEAN-Burma also issued a statement condemning the military coup and the arrest of civilian leaders.

“We condemn the Tatmadaw’s apparent coup d’état and its complete disregard for the rule of law. We urge the Tatmadaw to stand down, respect the results of the 2020 general election, immediately allow the elected Parliament to convene, and respect human rights,” said Adilur Rahman Khan, FIDH Secretary-General.

Debbie Stothard, ALTSEAN-Burma Coordinator also said that “for over a decade, FIDH and its member organizations’ calls to dismantle Myanmar military’s system of impunity have been set aside in favour of diplomatic and economic engagement. Now it is abundantly clear that a comprehensive international response targeting the military’s interests, including its economic holdings, must be urgently established to reverse these deplorable developments,”

Meanwhile, APHR, FORUM-Asia, and around 27 other signatory organizations from southeast Asia issued a statement denouncing the coup and calling for the immediate release of everyone who was detained, as well as for all forms of communications to be restored and parliament to be resumed.

The groups also called on the UN Security Council to convene an emergency meeting to respond to the situation, including sending a delegation to Myanmar, the establishment of a global arms embargo and a referral of the situation in Myanmar to the ICC. They called on the international community for a response, such as targeted sanctions against the military and their partners’ business enterprises and conditionality on diplomatic, economic and security relations.

They also demanded that the ASEAN leaders “use all diplomatic leverage to ensure the rule of law is upheld and the will of the people are respected.”

The military coup took place on the morning of 1 February, during which Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD) were detained, as well as a number of pro-democracy activists. A year-long state of emergency was declared, and Vice President and former lieutenant-general Myint Swe was installed as the acting President. It was also reported that internet connection and phone lines throughout the country were disrupted, and that soldiers in armoured cars were seen around Naypyidaw and Yangon.

Meanwhile, an anti-coup protest was held in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Bangkok on Monday afternoon (1 February), which was dispersed by police in full riot gear. Three protesters were also arrested.

Three students were also seen at the Pathumwan Skywalk distributing leaflets in opposition to the coup in Myanmar and holding signs saying “#StandwithMyanmar.” 

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