It has been over seven months since the Myanmar military launched an attempted coup d’etat to overthrow the legitimately elected government on 1 February, 2021, and it would have been unfathomable then to contemplate the scale of human suffering that would befall the people of Myanmar in the months to come. The military junta has stopped at nothing to terrorize the people, including continuing its decades-long civil war in ethnic regions and attacks on ethnic communities. In recent weeks, tensions have been at breaking point, as the junta ramps up militarization near villages and provokes and attacks ethnic armed organizations in Kachin, Chin, Mon, Karen and Karenni States, deliberately targeting and attacking civilians in breach of humanitarian and human rights law.
On 19 August in Karen State, the Myanmar military captured and assaulted three women, forced them to carry equipment and used them as human shields until they reached Kyaw Hta Loh River – an act forbidden under international law. In a separate incident on 1 September, Kawkareik township, the Myanmar military again captured a woman and used her as a human shield. In a joint statement, Karen Human Rights Group (KHRG) and Karen Women’s Organization (KWO) stressed the particular risks to women in militarized ethnic areas, including being subjected to forced labor, used as human shields, tortured and subjected to sexual and gender-based violence. These acts committed by the military junta against women are well catalogued by ethnic organizations, through decades of grievous human rights violations by the Myanmar military. Both groups are calling for “accountability without impunity” and “urge [for] the protection of all civilians in the country and for the UN to act swiftly and with conviction to intervene in the declining state of human rights in Burma/Myanmar.”
The Myanmar military continues to terrorize ethnic peoples, aimed at spreading fear and demoralizing them into submission. Tragically in Thea Ein Village, Mon State, military junta soldiers shot and killed Ei Thwe Moe and her unborn child, and severely injured her husband Puu Day after returning from fishing. Ei Thwe Moe is survived by a 4-year-old daughter and her husband. These inhumane acts of violence are indicative of the Myanmar military’s entrenched pattern of behavior, one that places no respect on human life and attacks civilians in the full enjoyment of the impunity they are guaranteed in this criminal organization. This has been the status quo for decades, and the perpetrators of these crimes must be held criminally accountable under international law.
In Kachin State, the ruthless Infantry Battalion 58 stationed near Waingmaw Township, continues to kill civilians, inexplicably and indiscriminately. Last week, Lon Bang Hkaw Zung was murdered while walking past military personnel in Waingmaw township. His death is the latest in a long line of civilians killed near Waingmaw by the same Battalion, including a woman shot while on her motorbike after buying groceries and another woman killed when her house was shelled, both in August. Meanwhile, in central parts of Myanmar, the junta burned and destroyed supplies donated to villagers in Kin Ma village, Magway Region. In June, Kin Ma was savagely cleared out, looted and 200 houses burned to the ground by the military, resulting in people being burned to death. Many lost everything in the blaze, and are subsisting on donations and aid to rebuild their lives. What remains of the village was also recently raided on 29 August by the junta, who set fire to Nyunt Wai – burning him to death. Perpetrators of all these crimes must be met with punitive actions by the international community, such as deeper cuts to the military junta’s access to weapons and funds, and an end to military impunity.
It is encouraging to see the UK, US and EU continue to increase sanctions against the Myanmar military leadership and military-owned and affiliated businesses. The UK recently announced further sanctions against military crony and chairman of Htoo Group of Companies, U Tay Za, a funder of the Rohingya genocide and involved in arms dealing on behalf of the military. These continued efforts are commendable and form the building blocks for a concerted restriction on funds and arms flowing to the military junta, yet more coordinated actions must be taken. It is imperative that the UN Security Council must impose a global arms embargo and tougher targeted sanctions on the military leadership and its owned, affiliated and controlled businesses, including state-owned Enterprises that are currently under the military junta’s control, which subsist partly of gems, jade, oil and gas and other lucrative extractive industries. The international community must also heed the calls of local civil society organizations, like KHRG, KWO and others to address justice and accountability by referring Myanmar’s situation to the ICC or establishing an ad hoc tribunal. Collectively, the international community must rally behind the people of Myanmar. They must take a clear stand in solidarity with protesters within the Spring Revolution and recognize the National Unity Government to fulfil the peoples’ desire for a genuine federal democracy, a democracy that uproots military tyranny once and for all, and breaks the cycle of impunity.
 One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.
By 17 Rohingya Civil Society Organizations
By 36 Myanmar University Students’ Unions
By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
By Australian Karen Organisation
By Kalay University Students’ Union
By KNU Concerned Group
By Karen Women’s Organization and Karen Human Rights Group
By Karenni Nationalities Defense Force
By Legal Aid Network
By Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Arakan Army
By National Unity Government of Myanmar
By National Unity Government (Ministry of Labour)
By National Unity Government (Ministry of Planning, Finance and Investment)
By National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights)
By National Unity Government (Ministry of International Cooperation)
By National Unity Government (Ministry of International Cooperation)
By National Unity Government (Ministry of Education)
By National Unity Government (Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Conservation)
By National Unity Government (Ministry of Justice)
By Chinland Defense Force – Zotung
By Chinland Defense Force – Lautu
By The National Press Club
By United Kingdom (Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office)
By Women’s League of Burma
By Asian Dignity Initiative
By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar
Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”