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Letter to UN Human Rights Council Concerning Ethnic Minorities

February 11th, 2021  •  Author:   165 Civil Society Organizations  •  10 minute read
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To: Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council Regarding the Crisis in Burma

Re: Open Letter from Community Organizations Calling for Action Regarding Burma to Support Ethnic Nationalities and Prioritize Human Rights

Dear Excellences,

We are writing to express our deep concern regarding the continuing attacks and atrocities committed against ethnic minorities in Burma by the Burma military (Burma Army), the brazen coup d’etat executed by the Burma Army on February 1 to subvert the results of a free and fair election and the Burma Army’s retaliation against peaceful protesters since February 1.

The Burma Army’s coup and subsequent violent crackdown on peaceful protesters demonstrate to the world what ethnic minorities have learned from decades of a brutal campaign against them: The Burma Army operates with complete autonomy and is guided only by its own self-interest. We urge the international community to act immediately and decisively to protest the Burma Army’s long-standing and serious violations of the human rights of the people of Burma and to protect ethnic minorities and peaceful demonstrators exercising their fundamental human rights.

Specifically, we would like to draw your attention to the atrocities routinely committed against ethnic groups for decades and which continue unabated. Since January 1 of this year, the Burma Army has displaced over 5326 Karen people, after shelling villages and blocking humanitarian aid. Approximately 130,000 Rohingya continue to fear for their lives as Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Rakhine state; fighting incited by the Burma Army has displaced close to 236,000 Rakhine civilians since 2018, and, on January 25, IDPs in Rakhine state were ordered to leave the camps sheltering them and relocate with no place to go. Conflict in Rakhine state has bled into neighboring Chin state, where more than 60,000 Chin IDPs have fled violence. In Burma’s Shan state, clashes led to the destruction and displacement of 1,000 villagers December 2020. As of January 2021, over 104,010 in Kachin and northern Shan state remain in displacement camps nearly a decade after being forcibly driven from their homes due to a ceasefire broken by the Burma Army. Though the Burma Army denied responsibility for the human rights violations documented by the CSOs on the ground, UN, international organizations and many others have proven otherwise. The Army also continues to forcibly conscript villagers as porters and guides, a practice often linked to other violations, including torture and sexual abuses as well as gender-based violence. While there may be less sounds of the guns, in Karenni state, the Burma Army has confiscated some 50,000 acres of land from ethnic Karenni people, even prosecuting farmers who attempted to cultivate their stolen land. Similar issues exist in Mon state, where a single township reported over 7,000 acres being confiscated by the Burma Army. It is evident that the Burma Army commits a multitude of violations, ranging from violence and atrocities to land-grabbing and forced displacement.

This laundry list of atrocities demonstrates that the international community must act now to protect lives in Burma, not only the lives of brave protesters who are exercising their fundamental human rights but also those of ethnic minorities who are threatened every day by military actions.

We, 165 Burma’s ethnic organizations, urge Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council in your February 12th Special Session on the human rights implications of the crisis in Myanmar to adopt a Resolution to:

  1. Establish immediate and regular monitoring and evaluation of the situation in Burma, including by dispatching a delegation to Burma (including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar) to observe, document and report on the situation and by requiring regular reporting to the Human Rights Council and other UN mechanisms;
  2. Provide immediate humanitarian aid and direct cross-border assistance to adequately address the humanitarian needs of all IDPs and refugees suffering from ongoing Burma Army militarization and offensives;
  3. Suspend all political and financial support to the Burma Army and the peace process, including the Joint Peace Fund;
  4. Impose immediate sanctions against the Burma Army, both individually and as an institution, and against military-owned and -controlled companies and their affiliates, as recommended by the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar;
  5. Support the establishment of a comprehensive response to ensure long-term federal democratic and human rights change in the country, including by ensuring support towards constitutional change that would bring the military under civilian control and ensure accountability for grave human rights violations.

Additionally, we call on the United Nations, Human Rights Council and Member and Observer States, both collectively and individually, to pressure the Burma Army to:

  1. Stop offensives throughout the country, pull back troops in ethnic areas, respect the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement and proceed with political or tripartite dialogue;
  2. Immediately allow all humanitarian aid to affected areas, including ethnic areas;
  3. Immediately and unconditionally release State Counsellor Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and all arbitrarily detained political prisoners, including those who won seats in the recent 2020 election;
  4. Cease all violence and use of force in response to protests, lift all declarations of Martial Law, curfews and other restrictions imposed under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedures Act and allow for the full exercise of the fundamental right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly;
  5. Allow unrestricted access throughout Burma to all internet services, media platforms and other forms of communications;
  6. Allow the parliament elected by the will of the people in November 2020 to take office and allow elected representatives to fulfil their mandate without impediment.

We thank you for your immediate attention to this urgent matter.

Should you have question, please contact us at: [email protected].


Community Organizations inside Burma and Thailand-Burma Border
1 Back Pack Health Worker Team
2 All Arakan Students’ and Youths Congress
3 Assistance Association of Political Prisoners
4 Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
5 Chin Human Rights Organization
6 Dawn Peace Foundation
7 Future Light Center
8 Htoi Gender and Development Foundation
9 Human Rights Foundation of Monland – Burma
10 Humanity Institute
11 Humanity Institute Organization
12 Kachin Peace Network
13 Kachin Refugee Committee
14 Kachin Women Peace Network
15 Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
16 Karen Affairs Committee
17 Karen Environmental and Social Action Network
18 Karen Human Right Organization
19 Karen Lawyers Network
20 Karen Organization for Relief and Development
21 Karen Peace Support Network
22 Karen Refugee Committee
23 Karen River Watch
24 Karen Student Network Group
25 Karen Teacher Working Group
26 Karen Women Organization
27 Karen Youth- Rangoon
28 Karenni National Women Organization
29 Karenni Refugee Committee
30 Keng Tung Youth
31 Loka Ahlinn
32 Maramagri Youth Network
33 Myanmar People Alliance (Shan State)
34 NeT Organization
35 Network for Human Rights Documentation Burma
36 Pa-O Youth Organization
37 Progressive Voice
38 Research and Translation Consultancy Cluster
39 Shan MATA
40 Southern Youth Development Organization
41 Synergy Social Harmony Organization
42 Ta’ang Women’s Organization
43 Women Leagues of Burma
44 Youth Circle
Community Organizations Abroad
45 Albany Karen community, NY, USA
46 Arakan American Community, USA
47 Arakan Institute for Peace and Development, Houston, TX, USA
48 Burma Center, Springfield, MI, USA
49 Burmese Christian Fellowship, Boston, MA, USA
50 California Karen Youth Forum, Oakland, CA, USA
51 California Shan Society, San Francisco, CA, USA
52 Chin Youth of Tomorrow, USA
53 Citizen for Burma Award, Boston, MA, USA
54 Dallas Kachin Community, Dallas, TX, USA
55 Dallas Karen Baptist Church, Dallas, TX, USA
56 Dallas Karen Community, Dallas, TX, USA
57 DEEKU, the Karenni Community, USA
58 Eastern Pennsylvania Karen Community, Philadelphia, PA, USA
59 Ebenezer Karen Baptist Church, St. Paul, MN, USA
60 International Campaigns for Arakan, Washington, DC, USA
61 Jury’s Child Care, Cozad, NE , USA
62 Kachin Alliance, Washington, DC, USA
63 Kachin National organization US, Dallas, TX, USA
64 Kansas Karenni community, KS, USA
65 Karen American Association of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, WI, USA
66 Karen Association of Huron, SD, USA
67 Karen Baptist Churches, USA
68 Karen Baptist of West Chicago, IL , USA
69 Karen Community in South Carolina, Columbia, SC, USA
70 Karen Community in Syracuse, NY, USA
71 Karen Community of Akron, OH, USA
72 Karen Community of Austin, Texas, USA
73 Karen Community of Charlotte, NC, USA
74 Karen Community of Georgia, GA, USA
75 Karen Community of Greensboro, NC, USA
76 Karen Community of Iowa, IA, USA
77 Karen Community of Kansas City, KS & MO, USA
78 Karen Community of Louisville, KY, USA
79 Karen Community of Minnesota, MN, USA
80 Karen Community of New Bern, NC, USA
81 Karen Community of North Carolina, NC, USA
82 Karen Community of Rochester, Rochester, NY, USA
83 Karen Community of Rock Island, IL, USA
84 Karen Organization of America, USA
85 Karen Organization of Illinois, IL, USA
86 Karen Society of Buffalo, Buffalo, NY, USA
87 Karen Society of Nebraska, NE, USA
88 Karen Student Association, Omaha, NE, USA
89 Karen Student Organization, St. Paul, MN, USA
90 Karen Student United Association, St. Cloud, MN, USA
91 Karen Youth Education Pathways, USA
92 Karenni American Association, St. Paul, MN, USA
93 Karenni Community of Bowling Green, KY, USA
94 Karenni community of Des Moines, IA, USA
95 Karenni Community of Georgia, GA, USA
96 Karenni community of Indianapolis, IN, USA
97 Karenni Community of Massachusetts, MA, USA
98 Karenni community of Minnesota, MN, USA
99 Karenni Community of Missouri, MO, USA
100 Karenni Community of New York, NY, USA
101 Karenni Community of North Carolina, NC, USA
102 Karenni Community of Portland, OR, USA
103 Karenni Community of Taxes, TX, USA
104 Karenni Community of Wisconsin, WI, USA
105 Karenni Society of Minnesota, MN, USA
106 Karenni-American Catholic Association, USA
107 Louisville Karen Baptist Church, Louisville, KY, USA
108 Lowell International Church, Lowell, MA, USA
109 Marshall Karen Community, MN, USA
110 Massachusetts Baptists Multicultural Ministries Inc, Boston, MA, USA
111 Mon America Association, USA
112 Nationalities Alliance of Burma USA
113 Nazareth Karen Baptist Church, St. Paul, MN, USA
114 Overseas Burmese Christian Fellowship, Allston, MA, USA
115 Richmond Kachin Community, Richmond, VA, USA
116 Rohingya American Society, Milwaukee, WI, USA
117 Rohingya Culture Center of Chicago, IL, USA
118 Rohingya Society of Greater Nashua, NH, USA
119 Tee Moo Ler Karen Baptist Church, DuPage County, IL, USA
120 The Urban Village, St. Paul, MN, USA
121 Utica Karen Community, Utica, NY, USA
122 Washington Kachin Community, Seattle, WA, USA
123 World Rohingya Organization, Jackson Height, NY, USA
124 Zion Karen Baptist Church of Albert Lea, MN, USA
125 Zomi Innkuan USA
126 Zomi International Communities Organization, Tulsa, OK, USA
127 Mid-Atlantic Kachin Community, USA
128 Atlanta Kachin Community, Atlanta, GA, USA
129 Jacksonville Kachin Community, Jacksonville, FL, USA
130 Calvary Burmese Church, Washington, DC, USA
131 Calgary Karen Community Association, Canada
132 Canadian Burma Ethnic Nationalities Organization, Canada
133 Edmonton Karen Community Youth Organization, Canada
134 European Karen Network
135 Finland Karen Culture Association
136 International Karen Organisation, Australia
137 Kachin Canadian Association
138 Karen Community Association-UK
139 Karen Community in Norway
140 Karen Community of Canada
141 Karen Community of Czech Republic
142 Karen Community of Finland
143 Karen Community of Hamilton
144 Karen Community of Ireland
145 Karen Community of Israel
146 Karen Community of Kitchener & Waterloo, Canada
147 Karen Community of Lamington, Canada
148 Karen Community of Lethbridge, Canada
149 Karen Community of London, Canada
150 Karen Community of Ottawa, Canada
151 Karen Community of Regina, Canada
152 Karen Community of Saskatoon, Canada
153 Karen Community of Thunderbay, Canada
154 Karen Community of Toronto, Canada
155 Karen Community of Windsor, Canada
156 Karen Community of Winnipeg, Canada
157 Karen Community Society of British Columbia, Canada
158 Karen Swedish Community
159 Karen Thai Group, Thailand
160 Karen Youth of Norway
161 Karen Youth of Toronto, Canada
162 KNU Concerned Group, Burma
163 Korea Karen Organization
164 Korea Karen Youth Organization
165 Oversea Karen Organization Japan

Download the letter in PDF.