Open letter from Myanmar civil society organizations to the UN Human Rights Council on the deteriorating human rights situation in Myanmar during the COVID-19 crisis

September 21st, 2020  •  Author:   364 Civil Society Organizations  •  13 minute read
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21 September, 2020

To: Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council

Subject: Open letter from Myanmar civil society organizations to the UN Human Rights Council on the deteriorating human rights situation in Myanmar during the COVID-19 crisis

Your Excellencies,

On the occasion of the International Day of Peace, which falls on 21 September, we,  364 Myanmar civil society organizations express concern over the deteriorating  human rights situation amid the pandemic, escalating armed conflict in ethnic areas, and the lack of humanitarian assistance, and would like the UN Human Rights Council to urge Myanmar to respect and protect the rights of all people in the country and to adhere to the demand for a global ceasefire by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres.

Myanmar is one of the many countries in the world bitterly facing the COVID-19 pandemic. As the world seeks to respond to the catastrophe, Myanmar has increased its military offensives in Rakhine and Chin states, taking advantage of COVID-19. As the armed conflict intensifies, we are especially concerned that innocent civilians are facing atrocities and the scourge of war, including arbitrary arrests, torture, rape and extrajudicial killings.

On September 3 at around 9:30 pm the Myanmar military set fire to Hpa Yar Paung and Taung Pauk Villages in Kyauktaw Township, Rakhine State according to a news report by the Rakhine-based Development Media Group. According to All Arakan Students’ & Youths’ Congress (AASYC), nearly 190 houses have been set on fire in those two villages, and two villagers were killed on the same day.  Furthermore, on September 8, we have learned sadly that a total of four villagers, including two innocent children, were killed and 11 others were injured when artillery shells fired by the Myanmar military hit Nyaungkan Village in Myebon Township. Again on September 17, in Shwe Long Tin Village, Rathedaung Twonship, a 43-year old man was killed and another two civilians got injured by the Myanmar military’s artillery shell.

From 1 January 2019 to 10 September 2020, according to Burma Monitor, a local research and monitoring organization, 432 civilians were killed and 775 injured nationwide due to armed conflict and human rights violations committed during armed conflict. In Rakhine and Chin States alone, 295 civilians were killed and 674 were injured during the same duration.

To make matters worse, while people are facing hardship in the COVID-19 crisis, the civilians are not only suffering from the armed conflict, but also from information blackouts by the Myanmar government. It has been more than a year since the Myanmar government cut off internet access to northern Rakhine State and Paletwa Township in Chin State for security reasons, leaving people with serious challenges without access to information about COVID-19 and the war. Such actions by the Myanmar government not only violate the basic rights of the people, but also pave the way for the Myanmar military to perpetuate serious human rights abuses which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, while keeping the people of Myanmar and the international community in the dark.

In addition, the Myanmar government are using the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for the arbitrary arrest and detention of activists who are calling for an end to war and human rights abuses and an end to internet restriction. We are particularly concerned that these efforts are intended to shrink the democratic and civil society space through oppression and unjust measures.

On September 9, three students from Arakan Student’s Union who protested in front of the Rakhine State government office to stop the war, were charged and arrested under the Natural Disaster Prevention Act and Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law. Then, on September 10, thirteen students of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions (ABFSU), who staged a similar anti-war rally in Mandalay, were charged under Article 19 of Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law. Additionally, the authorities raided the house of Wai Yan Phyo Moe and Ko Paing Min Khant, members of the ABFSU, on September 12 in connection with an anti-war sticker campaign in Rangoon and they were also charged under Article 19 of Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Procession Law. Such arrests on young peace-loving people who are calling for peace and to stop the war, make us understand that the Myanmar government is showing that they don’t want genuine peace.

While the Myanmar government and military are using the COVID-19 pandemic as a weapon of war and as tool for political exploitation, since the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country, nearly 20,000 people have been charged by the government for breaking the Natural Disaster Management law and for not following the rules during emergency crisis, according to Radio Free Asia’s Myanmar program. As the current Myanmar government, who claims to be establishing democracy ignores the plight of the people, focused on the November 8 general elections, and continues to repress people’s freedom of expression, our civil society groups are particularly concerned that the people will face even greater human rights abuses in the future.

While the world is facing the bitter crisis of COVID-19, by continuing attacks that target civilians, the Myanmar government is not only committing blatant war crimes and crimes against humanity, but also violating the Geneva Convention, which Myanmar is a signatory. Therefore, we, as civil society organizations from Myanmar urge the Human Rights Council to take the following steps to ensure justice by bringing the Myanmar military that commits war crimes and crimes against humanity to account.

  • The Myanmar military must immediately end all hostility and offensive attacks in ethnic areas amid COVID-19 and the Myanmar government and military must adhere to the call for a global ceasefire made by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres;
  • Authorities must stop the unjust suppression against democracy activists, peaceful demonstrators, and human rights defenders by releasing those who are in detention and dropping charges against them;
  • The Myanmar government must respect the international obligations and responsibilities to which they have committed; and
  • The UN Human Rights Council should take necessary action to bring justice and accountability for the victims of human rights abuses committed by the Myanmar military, which amount to international crimes, and urge the UN Security Council to refer the situation of Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

For more information, please contact: 

Signed by 364 civil society organizations:

  1. 8888 သွေးသစ် (မိုးညှင်း)
  2. 88 Pwint Lin (Kachin)
  3. Action Committee for Democracy Development (ACDD)
  4. Active Women Development Initiative (AWDI)
  5. Ah Lin Yaung Pan Taing Developing Group
  6. Ahlin Tagar Rural Development Organization
  7. Alin Thit Sar Development Group
  8. Alinn Bhamaw Development Organization
  9. Alinsaetamarn Library and Resource Center
  10. All Arakan Civil Society Organization Partner (AACSOP)
  11. All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress (AASYC)
  12. All Kachin Youth Union – AKYU
  13. All Burma Federation of Youth Union
  14. Amnesty Arakan Team
  15. Anin Region Environmental Conservation Group
  16. Ann Township Pipeline Monitoring Group
  17. Another Alternative
  18. Ar Ra Kha Foundation
  19. Arakan CSO Network (ACN)
  20. Arakan Humanitarian Coordination Team
  21. Arakan Peasant Union
  22. Arakan Students’ Union (Arakan)
  23. Arakan Students’ Union – Universities of Rangoon
  24. Arr Marn Thit Social Development Organization
  25. Arr Thit Yaung Chi
  26. Airavati
  27. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP)
  28. Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization
  29. Ayeyarwaddy West Development Organization (Minhla)
  30. Ayeyarwaddy West Development Organization (Ngaphae)
  31. Ayeyarwaddy West Development Organization (Magway Region)
  32. Ayeyarwaddy CSOs Network
  33. Ayeyarwaddy Youth Network
  34. AYY Farmers Union
  35. Ayyar Pyo May Women Development Organization
  36. Ba Ann Media Group
  37. Basic Lawyer Network
  38. Bawa Ahlinn
  39. Bee House
  40. Beautiful Beach Development Network
  41. Bu Thee Taung Youth Network
  42. Burma Monitor (Research and Monitoring)
  43. Center for Social Integrity
  44. Chin Human Rights Organization
  45. Chin Land Affairs Network
  46. Chin State MATA Working Group
  47. Chin Women Development Organization
  48. Chin Youth Organization (Kanpalet)
  49. Chin Youth Organization (Matupi)
  50. Chin Resource Center
  51. Chin Youth Organization (Mindat)
  52. Citizen Action for Transparency (CAfT)
  53. Civil Call
  54. Community Association Development
  55. Community Empowerment and Resilience Association (CERA)
  56. Community Observer Association
  57. Community Peace Support Group
  58. Compassionate Hands Youth Humanitarian Promoters
  59. Christian Social Service and Development Department (Pathein)
  60. COMREG Community Response Group
  61. Chinland Natural Resource Watch Group
  62. Dama Ahlin Social Development Organization
  63. Dawei Development Committee
  64. Dawei Regions Farmer Union
  65. Democratic Education Corner-DEC
  66. Development Forces
  67. Democratic Youth (Bago)
  68. Democracy, Peace and Women Organization
  69. Diversity and Public Truth
  70. Doe Myae Civil Social Development Organization
  71. Dawn Peace Foundation
  72. Education (SPACE)
  73. Edin Mon Youth Group
  74. Educational Initiatives (EI)
  75. Environmental Justice Group
  76. Equality Myanmar (EQMM)
  77. Ethnic Equality
  78. Ever Green CBO
  79. Famer Agricultural Network
  80. Farmers and Land Rights Action Group
  81. Federation of National Farmer/ Peasant Union
  82. Former Political Prisoner Society (East Bago)
  83. Free & Fair (youth) Network
  84. Free and Justice
  85. Free Education Service Organization
  86. Freedom Society
  87. Future Arr Man Thit Development Group
  88. Future Light Center
  89. Future Light (Sagaing)
  90. Future Light Committee
  91. Future Light Social Development Organization
  92. Future Star Youth Organization
  93. Future Women Association (FWA)
  94. Future Young Pioneer Organization
  95. Gayunarshin Social Development Organization
  96. Generation Wave (GW)
  97. Genuine People’s Servants (GPS)
  98. Golden Future Social Development Organization
  99. Golden Heart Organization
  100. Good Hope Foundation
  101. Grip Hands
  102. Harmony Youth Association
  103. Helping Hand Organization
  104. Hinthar Tagon
  105. Hkumzup Development Committee
  106. Hna Lone Hla (AL)
  107. Hope for Children Development Organization
  108. Hsar Ka Paw Group
  109. Hsar Mu Htaw Group
  110. Hsar Mu Waw Group
  111. Htaw Me Par Group
  112. Htoi San Local Development Organization
  113. Htoi Gender and Development Organization
  114. Htoi Gin Tawng
  115. Htum Thit Sa Rural Development Organization
  116. Human Rights Foundation of Monland
  117. IFI Watch Myanmar
  118. Justice Movement for Community – Innlay
  119. Justice Action Group
  120. Ka Nyunt Kwin Youth Center
  121. Kachin Peace Network
  122. Kachin Women Peace Network (KWPN)
  123. Kachin Women’s Association Thailand (KWAT)
  124. Kachin Women’s Union
  125. Kanpetlet Land Development Organization
  126. Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN)
  127. Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG)
  128. Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN)
  129. Karen Student Network Group (KSNG)
  130. Karen Women’s Organization (KWO)
  131. Karen Women Union (KWU)
  132. Karen Youth Organization (KYO)
  133. Karenni Civil Society Network (KCSN)
  134. Karenni Ever Green
  135. Karenni Human Rights Group (KnHRG)
  136. Karenni MATA
  137. Karenni National Women Organization (KNWO)
  138. Karenni National Youth Organization
  139. Karenni State Farmer Union
  140. Kaung Myat Hnalonethar Health Care Organization
  141. Kawyaw National Youth Organization (KyNYO)
  142. Kayan Earth Right Action Network
  143. Kayan New Generation Youth
  144. Kayan Women Organization
  145. Kayin Culture and Literature Committee (Thaton)
  146. Keng Tung Youth
  147. Khaing Myae Thitsar Development Committee
  148. Kindness Foundation (Karen)
  149. Karuna Mission Social Solidarity (Pathein)
  150. Karen Open Group (KOG)
  151. Kyaik Hti Yo Mountain Range Lover Association
  152. Kyaingtone Youth
  153. Kyaukpyu Rural Development Association
  154. Kyike Mayaw MATA
  155. Kyonemaku Chaung Network
  156. LAIN Technical Support Group
  157. Lan Pya Kyal Sin Group
  158. LatButta Farmer Union
  159. Lawngbit Hkawng
  160. Legal Aid for Human Rights (Shan State)
  161. LIAN Technical Support Group
  162. Life Light
  163. Light House Ayeyarwaddy Network
  164. Light Social Development Organization
  165. Lin Lett Kyal Social Development Organization
  166. Lisu Civil Society Network
  167. Living Water Organization
  168. Local Development Network (LDN)
  169. Loi Yang Bum Community Development
  170. Loka Ahlinn (Social Development Organization)
  171. Lu Mu Htar Group
  172. Ma Day Island Youth Development Association
  173. Ma Haw tha Htar Group
  174. Mass Movement Acceleration Network
  175. MATA Mandalay
  176. MATA Sagaing Region
  177. Matupi Women Association
  178. Mawduklarmae Social Development Association (MSDA)
  179. May Doe Arrman Women Development Organization
  180. Metta Development Foundation
  181. Mhine Nyein Network (Bago)
  182. Mi Karen Youth
  183. Minggalar Foundation
  184. Mitta Yaung Sin Youth Group
  185. Mone Chaung Lover
  186. Mon Area Community Development Organization (MACDO)
  187. Mon Green Develop Group
  188. Mon Region Social Development Network
  189. Mon Social Development and Peace Network
  190. Mon State CSO Network
  191. Mon Youth Organization (zobbu)
  192. Mon Youth Progressive Organization (MYPO)
  193. Mong Pan Youth Association
  194. MRDJO Magway Regional Rules of law and Justice group
  195. Mu Se Multi Development Association (မူစဲကမ်းဘက်စုံဖွံ့ဖြိုးတိုးတက်ရေးအသင်း)
  196. Mudon CSO Network
  197. Mudon Township Development Group
  198. Myaebon Youth Association
  199. Myanmar Cultural Research Society (MCRS)
  200. Myanmar Digital Rescue (MDR)
  201. Myanmar People Alliance (Shan State)
  202. Myit Ma Ayeyarwaddy Development Organization
  203. Mwetaung Area Development Group
  204. Nam Shani Organization
  205. Namkyeo Parahita Foundation
  206. Nann Kyar Youth Association
  207. NeT Organization
  208. Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica
  209. Olive Organization
  210. Open Development Foundation
  211. Oway Education and Youth Institute
  212. Pa-O Women’s Union
  213. Pa-O Youth Organization (PYO)
  214. Pan Tain Shin Women Rural Development Organization
  215. Pan Thi Kyo LGBT Organization
  216. Parshan River Maintenance Committee
  217. Pauk Khaung Youth Network
  218. Paung Ku
  219. Paung Sie Ayar
  220. Paungsee Myittar Organization
  221. Peace & Development Center Meiktila
  222. Peace and Development Initiative – Kintha
  223. Peace and Rule of Law Acceleration Network (PRLAN)
  224. Peace Bike Tour
  225. Peace for Youth
  226. Peace Working Committee (PWC)
  227. Peace, Development & Civic Engagement (P.D.CE)
  228. Peasant Legal Aid Network (PLAN)
  229. People for People (PFP)
  230. People Oriented and Development Group
  231. Phyu Sin Mitta
  232. Phyu Sin Myittar Social Development Organization
  233. Pone Yate Sit Regional Development Organization
  234. Progressive Voice
  235. Pwint Phyu Development Organization
  236. Pyar Taung Conservation Group
  237. Pyay Division Mhine Peace Network
  238. Pyi Thue A Kyoe Pyue Group
  239. Pyoe Organization
  240. Ra Kha Yin Thwe
  241. Rakha Arr Marn Group
  242. Rakha Strength Social Development Organization
  243. Rakhaing Women’s Union
  244. Rakhine Ethnics Congress
  245. Rakhine National Network (Lay Taung)
  246. Rakhine Social Network (Myaebon)
  247. Rakhine State Civil Society Organizations Peace Committee
  248. Rakhine State Disabilities Organization
  249. Rakhine Women Network
  250. Rakhine Youth Generation
  251. Rakhine Youth New Generation Network
  252. Ran Byae Township Development Group
  253. Reliable Organization
  254. Retired Voluntary Group
  255. Rivers and Creeks Monitoring Group
  256. Rule of Law Watch Group
  257. Regional Development Organization
  258. Rural Social Development Organization
  259. Sabae and Kyay Sin Mining Watch Group
  260. Sanpya Social Development Group
  261. Sarnar Kyi Phyu Social Development Organization
  262. SarPhyu Farmer Network
  263. Saytana Shaesaung Youth Organization
  264. Sein Lan Lwin Pyin Group (Laputta)
  265. Sein Lan Pyin Oo Lwin
  266. Sein Lann Mon Myay
  267. Shan Literature
  268. Shan MATA Working Group
  269. Shan State Peace Taskforce
  270. Shan Women Development Network
  271. She Sawng Kyea Women Group (Karmai)
  272. Shining Star Interfaith and human rights Group
  273. Shwe Min Thar Foundation
  274. Shwe Nathar Farmer Development Organization
  275. Shwe Pain Nyin Group
  276. Shwe Pan Pyo Lat (Education, Women and Child Support)
  277. Shwe Thinkha Social Development Organization
  278. Shwechinthae Farmers Network
  279. Shwechinthae Social Service Group (Shwebo)
  280. Sit Man Thaw Sanda Social group
  281. SKY-Youth, Kyaukphyu
  282. Social Development and Peace Network
  283. Social Program Aid for Civic
  284. Star Way Organization
  285. Student and Youth Congress of Burma – SYCB
  286. Swam Su Ti Rural Development Organization
  287. Synergy Social Harmony Organization
  288. Ta’ang Women’s Organization
  289. Tampadipa
  290. Tanintharyi MATA
  291. TaungGoke Public Service Committee
  292. Tedim Youth Fellowship
  293. Than Dwe Development Association
  294. Than Lwin Thar Chin group
  295. Thanlwin Network
  296. Thazin – Legal Aid Group
  297. The Seagull:Human Rights, Peace & Development
  298. Thin Gan Taung Waterfall Group
  299. Thint Myat Lo Thu Myar (Peace Seekers and Multiculturalist Movement)
  300. Third Eye Organization (Mindat)
  301. Thwee CSO
  302. Together Thanlyin
  303. Tonzang Youth Fellowship
  304. Township Leading Group (Waingmaw)
  305. Transparency and Accountability Network Kachin State
  306. Tree Lover group
  307. Uakthon Local Social Development Organization
  308. Union of Karenni State Youth
  309. Universities of Kachin Literature And Culture Federation
  310. Upper Myanmar Watch Group
  311. Waingmaw CSO Network
  312. Waingmaw Lisu Development Association
  313. Wan Lark Development Foundation
  314. White Hand Social Welfare Group
  315. Windayea Village Social group
  316. Women Development Group (Bago)
  317. Women Empowerment Group
  318. Women for Women Foundation (WWF)
  319. Women’s Peace Network
  320. Worker Development Organization
  321. World View Monitoring and helping Group
  322. Yae Aye Alliance Development Group
  323. Yai Ywal Yar Youth Development Organization
  324. Yangon MATA
  325. Yangon Youth Network
  326. Yatanar Youngyi Social Development Organization
  327. Yaung Chi Thit Public Library group
  328. YoeMa Civil Society Group
  329. Young Ni Oo Social Development Organization
  330. YOUNITY
  331. Youth Arr Man Group
  332. Youth For A New Society (YNS)
  333. Youth Initiative for Human Rights
  334. Youth Society Network
  335. Zo Youth Organization
  336. Zomi Students and Youth Organization
  337. Zomin Youth Association
  338. ကချင်စာပေနှင့်ယဥ်ကျေးမှုအဖွဲ့(တက္ကသိုလ်များ) အသင်းချုပ်
  339. ငြိမ်းသံလွင်ဖောင်ဒေးရှင်း
  340. စည်းလုံးဧရာလူမှုအဖွဲ့အစည်းစကားဝိုင်း
  341. ဆွေသဟာ လူမှုဖွံဖြိုးရေးအဖွဲ့
  342. ဒို့တာဝန်နိူင်ငံ့အရေးကွန်ရက်
  343. မြစ်ဖျားဧရာ
  344. မိတ္ထီလာခရိုင် အလင်းတန်းအဖွဲ့
  345. မေမြို့ တောင်သူလယ်သမား ဖွံ့ဖြိုးတိုးတက်ရေးကွန်ရက်
  346. ရွှေတောင်တိုက်နယ်တောင်သူ့အားမာန်  ဝမ်းတွင်းမြို့နယ် 
  347. ရှမ်းပြည်ကချင်အမျိုးသားလုံးဆိုင်ရာကွန်ရက်
  348. လေဖြတ်သူများကူညီစောင့်ရှောက်ရေးအသင်း မြန်မာ(SAM)
  349. လောကပါလတရားမြှင့်တင်ရေးကွန်ရက်
  350. သန္တိသုခအခမဲ့လူမှုကူညီရေးအသင်း
  351. လွတ်လပ်သောအရှိုချင်းများအင်အားစု
  352. ပြည်သာယာဌာနေအမျိုးသမီးများဖွံ့ဖြိုးတိုးတက်ရေးအဖွဲ့ (PTY-Group)
  353. ရွှေခြံမြေကွန်ရက်၊ ကွမ်းခြံကုန်းမြို့နယ်၊ 
  354. ရပ်ရွာငြိမ်းချမ်းရေး နှင့် ဖွံ့ဖြိုးရေးရှေ့ဆောင်အဖွဲ့၊ ကလေးမြို့နယ်၊  စစ်ကိုင်းတိုင်းဒေသကြီး။
  355. ဒို့လယ်ယာ ကွန်ရက်၊ ဟင်္သာတမြို့နယ်၊ ဧရာဝတီ
  356. လူ့အခွင့်အရေးကာကွယ်မြှင့်တင်ရေးကွန်ရက်၊ ချောက်မြို့နယ်၊ မကွေးတိုင်းဒေသကြီး။
  357. အလုပ်သမားအဖွဲ့ဖွဲ့စည်းပေါ်ပေါက်ရေးနှင့်အမျိုးသမီး အခွင့်အရေး အသိပညာပေးရေး (ပဲခူးကွန်ရက်) ပဲခူးတိုင်းဒေသကြီး။
  358. တောင်သူလယ်သမားများနှင့် ရေလုပ်သားများ အကျိုးစီးပွားကာကွယ်စောင့်ရှောက်ရေးကွန်ရက်၊ မြစ်ကျိုးတိုက်နယ်၊ ပဲခူးတိုင်းဒေသကြီး။
  359. ဥသျှစ်ပင် လူငယ်ကွန်ရက်၊ ဥသျှစ်ပင်မြို့၊ ပန်းတောင်းမြို့နယ်၊ ပဲခူးတိုင်းဒေသကြီး။
  360. Peasants’ Legal Aid Network – Arakan , မြောက်ဦးမြို့နယ်၊ ရခိုင်ပြည်နယ်။
  361. မွန်လူငယ်ကွန်ရက် -ရေး၊ ရေးလမိုင်း၊ မွန်ပြည်နယ်။
  362. လူမူဖွံ့ဖြိုးရေးနှင့် ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေးကွန်ရက်၊ ပေါင်မြို့နယ်၊ မွန်ပြည်နယ်။
  363. Ramkhye – ရမ်းခေး၊ မြစ်ကြီးနားကွန်ရက်၊ ကချင်ပြည်နယ်။
  364. Justice Drum ကွန်ရက်၊ တောင်ကြီးမြို့နယ်၊ ရှမ်းပြည်နယ်တောင်ပိုင်း။

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Read this letter in Burmese.