Concrete actions needed to materialize the true spirit of Human Rights Day

December 19th, 2022  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  9 minute read
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Although many alarming trends have been raised in these statements, there is one common call: the international community needs to step up its efforts to reflect the demands of Human Rights Day and the obligation they must fulfill for the people of Myanmar. 

People of Myanmar continue to have their human rights desecrated left and right on International Human Rights Day. The UN’s “Dignity, freedom and justice for all” theme to mark 75 years since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights runs afoul of the grim realities on the ground in Myanmar, with little concrete actions from the UN and the international community to change course.

Several statements have marked the occasion that paints a horrendous picture. The Human Rights Foundation of Monland remarked that “The rule of law no longer exists under reasonable means” as it tallied the Myanmar military junta’s slew of grave crimes in Mon and Karen States and Tanintharyi Region. Meanwhile, the Karen Human Rights Group and the Karen Women’s Organisation reiterated the deadly impacts of military impunity on the lives, livelihoods and safety of people in Karen State. Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization in Malaysia strongly condemned the ongoing genocide of Rohingya population in Myanmar, not only taking lives of those inside the country but also putting thousands seeking safety abroad in danger.

Although many alarming trends have been raised in these statements, there is one common call: the international community needs to step up its efforts to reflect the demands of Human Rights Day and the obligation they must fulfill for the people of Myanmar. This recommendation should not come as a surprise if we take even a passing look at the state of human rights in Myanmar today, last month or a year ago. When Myanmar ranks as one of the top countries at risk of new mass killings in 2022 and 2023 according to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, the only reasonable course of action is to take concrete measures to prevent atrocities, not to spew rhetoric and lip service.

As international attention wanes and action is severely lacking, ten prisoners including seven students were sentenced to death. Many alarmed communities called out to the junta to “Stop executing our friends” inside the country and in Australia, Nepal, Japan and Thailand, as the junta’s July execution has already proven that it will cross any lines to punish dissenting voices.

Meanwhile, the former president of the Kachin Baptist Convention, a human rights advocate who called for freedom from the junta’s dictatorship, has been arrested and detained. Journalists continue to be prosecuted for bogus charges of terrorism and sedition. A Muslim political prisoner was beaten to death in Insein Prison. A prominent LGBTIQ+ activist Sue Sha Shin Thant has been sentenced to further 22 years in prison by the junta’s illegitimate court after having already received a 3 year sentence on trumped up charges.

As expected, a recent Japan-brokered ceasefire agreement between the junta and the Arakan Army contributed nothing to change the ground situation for ethnic communities, not only in Rakhine State but also around the country. The Myanmar military has flared up dozens of airstrikes and indiscriminate shelling in Northern Shan State in active fighting with several ethnic revolutionary organizations (EROs) and People’s Defense Forces (PDFs). Over ten thousand more innocent people have been displaced, and dozens killed by junta operations. This ceasefire is nothing more than the military’s well-worn tactic to redirect its troops and amp up attacks in other areas. The international community must no longer engage with the junta when it has repeatedly confirmed itself to be a fraudulent actor — totally devoid of respect for humanity and human rights and unable to be engaged with in good faith for any semblance of “peace”.

The US Government’s decision not to immediately appoint a new ambassador to Myanmar which serves to rid the junta of legitimacy, along with the Swiss disinviting the junta from the Effective Development Co-operation Summit with strong push from civil society after their invitation was exposed and challenged by an activists group, Justice For Myanmar, are steps in the right direction. However, they do not measure up to the Myanmar people’s repeated calls for human rights protection. The turmoil in Myanmar demands more concrete actions — like the Canadian Government’s sanctions on jet fuel supplier Asia Sun Group and arms brokers. While long overdue, the UK Government’s steps to impose fresh sanctions on perpetrators of sexual violence, including the 33rd and 99th Light Infantry Division responsible for atrocity crimes during the Rohingya genocide are also actions that are welcomed.

In particular, the people of Myanmar showed strong support for the US Government’s decision to include, in its recently passed National Defense Authorization Act, the National Unity Government – the legitimate government of Myanmar – and the National Unity Consultative Council as well as its commitment to provide technical assistance to EROs and PDFs and support to the Myanmar people to pursue justice and accountability for gross human rights violations by the junta. Another tangible, easily executed support by the international community could have included a search and rescue mission for over 150 Rohingya dead or missing at sea, or the protection of almost 50 Rohingya refugees arrested in Thailand, and countless Rohingya previously stranded and prosecuted while fleeing from their plight.

As fighting in ethnic areas is expected to intensify during winter holidays, the junta will utilize fighter jets for its killing spree. The constant supply of aviation fuel to the junta only feeds into fresh rounds of airstrikes. As 550 organizations called on the UK Government to ensure no British companies are involved in this supply chain, other governments must also heed this call and formulate the same policy. Not only that, countries must campaign for a strong UN Security Council resolution which includes a comprehensive global arms embargo, and strengthen more coordinated efforts to target the junta’s revenue streams including sanctioning the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE) and other junta-linked businesses, arms dealers and cronies.

Myanmar human rights defenders have shown their courage, strength and resilience to protect the rights of their communities — from women activists in Chin State, youth in Sagaing Region, to those in Rohingya refugee camps, former political prisoners and much more. In the spirit of Human Rights Day, the international community needs not only celebrate such admirable undertakings but must also bolster them with actual, substantial action.


[1] 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.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

Open letter to UK Foreign Secretary: sanction all companies involved in supplying aviation fuel to Myanmar

By 550 Organizations

Statement Calling for the Japanese Government to Stop ODA to Myanmar

By 59 Civil Society Organizations

Southeast Asia: ‘Swift action’ needed to rescue Rohingya refugees stranded at sea

By Amnesty International

Statement on the Imposition of Death Sentence Against Seven University Students from Dagon University

By Burma Academy

Burma Campaign UK Welcomes New UK Burma Sanctions

By Burma Campaign UK

၂၀၂၂ ခုနှစ်၊ အပြည်ပြည်ဆိုင်ရာလူ့အခွင့်အရေးနေ့ အထိမ်းအမှတ် သဘောထားထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw

Former President of the Kachin Baptist Convention arrested

By Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Protesters Detained in Over 90 countries from the past year finds New Global Report

By CIVICUS Monitor

Myanmar journalist Myo San Soe sentenced to 15 years in prison for terrorism

By Committee to Protect Journalists

နိုင်ငံတကာလူ့အခွင့်အရေးနေ့ အခမ်းအနားသို့ ဒီမိုကရက်တစ်လူငယ်ကောင်စီမှ ပေးပို့သည့် သဝဏ်လွှာ

By Democratic Youth Council

Backgrounder: Additional Sanctions for Myanmar

By Government of Canada

Regulations Amending the Special Economic Measures (Burma) Regulations

By Government of Canada

Statement: On Human Rights Day, HURFOM Condemns Ongoing Attacks by the Junta in Southeastern Burma

By Human Rights Foundation of Monland

Myanmar: Junta Sentences 10 Prisoners to Death

By Human Rights Watch

ILO calls for the unconditional release of Thet Hnin Aung, General Secretary of the Myanmar Industries Craft and Services Trade Union Federation

By International Labour Organization

Singapore-listed ETC’s legal review encourages Myanmar sanctions evasion

By Justice For Myanmar

Switzerland legitimising illegal Myanmar junta with meeting & invite to development summit

By Justice For Myanmar

JFM welcomes Switzerland disinviting junta from development summit

By Justice For Myanmar

JFM welcomes Canadian sanctions on Myanmar military jet fuel supplier and arms brokers

By Justice For Myanmar

Maintaining dignity in the face of denial of freedom and justice KHRG and KWO Statement on Human Rights Day

By Karen Women’s Organization and Karen Human Rights Group

Death Sentence on 7 Pro-Democracy Activist Prove the Ongoing Atrocities In Myanmar On Top Of Ongoing Rohingya Genocide

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization in Malaysia

Human Rights Day 2022 – The theme “Dignity, Freedom and Justice For All” must be made available and accessible for all

By Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization in Malaysia

Statement on the events relating to the incident in Tamu Township

By National Unity Government of Myanmar

National Unity Government Central Committee for Counter-Terrorism: Notification No 1/2022 – Proscription of Terrorist Groups

By National Unity Government of Myanmar

အကြမ်းဖက်စစ်ကောင်စီက ကျူးလွန်လျက်ရှိသည့် ကျေးလက်၊မြို့ပြနေ ပြည်သူများ၏ နေအိမ်များဖျက်ဆီး၍ မြေယာများလုယူနေခြင်းနှင့် စပ်လျဉ်း၍ အထူးသတိပေးတားမြစ်ခြင်း – ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် ၂၅/၂၀၂၂

By National Unity Government of Myanmar

Statement Regarding Death Sentences Against Seven Students from Dagon University

Spring University Myanmar

Statement for immediate release on Unlawful and arbitrary arrest of Rev. Dr. Hkalam Samson

World Kachin Congress



Coup Watch November 2022 – Temporary ceasefire in Rakhine as ASEAN starts getting serious


Global Assessment on Protest Rights

By CIVICUS Monitor

The State of Food Security and Nutrition in Myanmar: Findings from the Myanmar Household Welfare Survey 2021-2022

By International Food Policy Research Institute

Attacks on Health Care in Myanmar (16-29 November 2022)

By Insecurity Insight

Shot in the Back

By Myanmar Witness

Retaliatory attack in Sin Inn Gyi

By Myanmar Witness

Myanmar: Tanintharyi Region Monthly Situation Update (30 November 2022)

By Southern Monitor

Humanitarian Action for Children 2023 – Myanmar

By United Nations Children’s Fund

Myanmar Emergency Update (as of 5 December 2022)

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

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.”