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Open Letter: The UN General Assembly must take decisive action to hold the military junta accountable for atrocities in Myanmar

October 17th, 2023  •  Author:   440 Civil Society Organizations  •  15 minute read
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To: Member States of the United Nations General Assembly

CC: The United Nations Secretary-General

17 October 2023

Open Letter: The UN General Assembly must take decisive action to hold the military junta accountable for atrocities in Myanmar

Your Excellencies,

We – 440 Myanmar, regional, and international civil society organizations – call on Member States of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) to take immediate and decisive action to hold the Myanmar military accountable under international law through all possible avenues.

We welcome the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights which provided corroborated evidence of the military junta’s intensifying brutality – particularly airstrikes, the burning of villages, and mass killings. In addressing the worsening crisis in Myanmar, High Commissioner Volker Türk described the junta’s actions as “inhumanity in its vilest form,” emphasizing that there is “no reason to believe that the military will…break the cycle of impunity that has characterized its operations for decades.” It is clear that the military has continued and will continue to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes against the people of Myanmar unless it is held accountable under international law. We thus express our strongest support for the High Commissioner’s call for the UN Security Council (UNSC) to refer “the full scope of the current situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC).”

Nearly one year after its adoption in December 2022, we remain extremely disappointed by the insubstantial Security Council resolution 2669 on Myanmar. With this resolution, the Council has utterly failed to uphold its responsibilities under Chapter VII of the UN Charter and to ensure justice and accountability by failing to refer the current crisis in Myanmar to the ICC.

Despite the resolution’s demand of “an immediate end to all forms of violence throughout the country,” since its adoption, the junta has launched at least 965 airstrikes.[1] This amounts to a 150% increase in airstrikes following the resolution.[2] These aerial bombardments, often combined with attacks by ground troops, are one reason why at least 4,149 people have been killed, as of 17 October 2023, and over 1.7 million have been internally displaced[3] since the coup attempt. One of the latest attacks is as recent as 9 October 2023, when the junta once again launched an artillery bombardment on an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp: this time in Munglai Hkyet Village in Kachin State. The attack killed at least 29 people, including 13 children, and injured at least 57 people. Among the displaced, elderly women, pregnant women, and children have the most vulnerabilities, which are severely exacerbated by the lack of sufficient food, water, shelter, and other necessities. Moreover, the military – which has long used rape as a weapon of war – continues, with blanket impunity, its widespread sexual and gender-based violence, particularly against women and girls, in detention and in areas of its scorched-earth campaigns.

Further, in flagrant disregard of the resolution’s call for “full, safe and unimpeded humanitarian access to all people in need,” the junta continues to weaponize humanitarian aid by blocking, seizing, and destroying lifesaving supplies from displaced communities that have suffered from its heinous crimes. Even in natural disasters, such as the devastating Cyclone Mocha, the junta has proven its total disregard for human lives by blocking humanitarian access to affected communities across western Myanmar.

As the Myanmar human rights and humanitarian crisis further escalates, we express our greatest disappointment in the UN’s deferral of its responsibilities to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its futile Five-Point Consensus (5PC) over the past 29 months. The regional bloc and its current approach have utterly failed to take concrete measures to end the crisis, serving only to deter tangible action by the international community. In fact, ASEAN itself has explicitly requested UN support in addressing the crisis. To address Myanmar’s multi-faceted crisis, the UN must stop hiding behind the failed 5PC and take concrete actions to assume its responsibility to protect the people of Myanmar.

Excellencies, the loss of lives of the people of Myanmar at the hands of this ruthless military must not continue, and justice for the victims and survivors cannot wait. The Myanmar military’s decades-long impunity, and thus its systematic and widespread violence, will continue to prevail – and thousands of lives will continue to be lost – unless and until the military faces prosecution and is held to account for its genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Thus, it is with great urgency that we once again call on the UNGA and its individual Member States to strongly recommend the UNSC utilize all political and technical instruments at its disposal, namely a resolution on Myanmar under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. Such a resolution must necessitate the referral of the crisis in Myanmar to the ICC or the establishment of an ad hoc tribunal; robust, coordinated, and targeted economic sanctions on the Myanmar military and linked entities; and a comprehensive arms embargo to end the flow of weapons, jet fuel, and dual-use technology to the junta. Equally, we urge the UNGA to further recommend its Member States, agencies, and mechanisms to stop lending legitimacy to the junta; impose new and further coordinated, targeted economic sanctions; cut the flow of arms; and provide financial, political, and technical support for accountability efforts under universal jurisdiction, including in Argentina, Germany, and Turkey.

With Myanmar’s crisis reaching the point of unfathomable devastation, we look to the leadership of UN Member States to immediately actualize a UNSC resolution. If the resolution is vetoed by China or Russia, the people of Myanmar fully anticipate the UNGA’s adoption of the resolution, following in the footsteps of the decisive resolution on Ukraine promptly adopted by the same body in 2022.

Alongside a united call for a resolution, UN Member States must act immediately to ensure the response to the worsening humanitarian catastrophe across Myanmar is sufficient, effective, and harmless for affected populations. Member States must cease any partnership with the junta for the provision of aid, while increasing political and financial support through cross-border channels for locally led, frontline humanitarian responders – many of whom are women who serve and lead their communities in these roles in spite of great personal risks.

Now is the time for the UNGA and its Member States to fulfill their responsibility to the people of Myanmar. The UNGA and its Member States must ensure justice and accountability through all possible avenues, strengthen locally led humanitarian assistance, and unequivocally support the Myanmar people’s will for federal democracy.

For more information, please contact:

Signed by 440 civil society organizations, including 71 who have chosen not to disclose their name:

  1. 5/ of Zaya State Strike
  2. 8888 Generation (New Zealand)
  3. Action Against Myanmar Military Coup (AAMMC) Sydney
  4. Action Committee for Democracy Development (Coalition of 14 grassroots networks)
  5. Action Committee of Basic Education Students (ACBES)
  6. Active Youths Kalaymyo
  7. Ah Nah Podcast – Conversations with Myanmar
  8. All Arakan Students’ & Youth’ Congress
  9. All Arakan Youth Organization Network
  10. All Aung Myay Thar San Schools Strike Force
  11. All Burma Democratic Front in New Zealand
  12. All Burma Federation of Student Unions (Monywa District)
  13. All Burma Indigenous People Alliance
  14. All Burma Student Democratic Front – Australia Branch
  15. All Young Burmese League (AYBL)
  16. Alliance of Students’ Union – Yangon (ASU-Yangon)
  17. ALTSEAN-Burma
  18. Anti Dictatorship in Burma – DC Metropolitan Area.
  19. Anti-coup Forces Coordination Committee (ACFCC – Mandalay)
  20. Anti-Junta Alliance Yangon-AJAY
  21. Anti-Myanmar Dictatorship Movement
  22. Anti-Myanmar Military Dictatorship Network (AMMDN)
  23. Arakan CSO Network
  24. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
  25. Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR)
  26. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  27. ASORCOM – Alternative Solutions for Rural Communities
  28. Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
  29. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
  30. Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization
  31. Auckland Kachin Community NZ
  32. Auckland Zomi Community
  33. Aung San Su Kyi Park, Norway
  34. Australia Burma Friendship Association, Northern Territory
  35. Australia Karen Organization WA Inc.
  36. Australia Myanmar Doctors, Nurses and Friends
  37. Australia Myanmar Youth Alliance (AMYA)
  38. Australian Burmese Muslim Organisation
  39. Australian Chin Community (Eastern Melbourne Inc)
  40. Australian Karen Organisation (AKO)
  41. AWDO (Nagphe)
  42. A-Yar-Taw People Strike
  43. Ayeyarwaddy West Development Organisation (AWDO)
  44. Bamar Community Tasmania
  45. Basic Education General Strike Committee (BEGSC)
  46. Basic Education Worker Unions – Steering Committee (BEWU-SC)
  47. Blood Money Campaign
  48. BMT counselling
  49. Boat People SOS
  50. Burma Academy
  51. Burma Action Ireland
  52. Burma Campaign UK
  53. Burma Canadian Network, Peace for Burma (Vancouver-Canada)
  54. Burma Civil War Museum
  55. Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
  56. Burma Lawyers’ Council (BLC)
  57. Burma Support
  58. Burmese Community – South Australia
  59. Burmese Community Development Collaboration (BCDC)
  60. Burmese Community Group (Manawatu, NZ)
  61. Burmese Community Support Group (BCSG)
  62. Burmese Friendship Association
  63. Burmese Medical Association Australia (BMAA)
  64. Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK
  65. Burmese Rohingya Welfare Organisation New Zealand
  66. Burmese Women’s Union (BWU)
  67. Campaign for a New Myanmar
  68. Canberra Karen Association
  69. CAN-Myanmar
  70. CDM Medical Network (CDMMN)
  71. Chanmyatharzi Township People’s Strike
  72. Chaung Oo Township Youth Strike Committee
  73. Chin Community – South Australia
  74. Chin Community in Norway
  75. Chin Community of Auckland
  76. Chin Community of Western Australia Inc.
  77. Chin Community Tasmania
  78. Chin Human Rights Organization
  79. Chin Youth Organization
  80. Chindwin (West) Villages Women Strike
  81. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  82. Civil Information Network (CIN)
  83. Civil Rights Defenders
  84. Civil Society Organizations Coordination Committee (Monywa)
  85. Coalition Strike Committee – Dawei
  86. Co-operative University Mandalay Students’ Strike
  87. CRPH & NUG Supporters Ireland
  88. CRPH Funding Ireland
  89. CRPH Support Group, Norway and members organizations
  90. CRPH, NUG Support Team Germany – Deutschland
  91. CRPH/NUG support group Australia
  92. CSOs Nexus Consortium – Tanintharyi
  93. Daung Sitthe Strike
  94. Dawei (Ashaetaw) Women Strike
  95. Dawei Youths Revolutionary Movement Strike Committee
  96. Democracy for Burma
  97. Democracy, Peace and Women’s Organization
  98. Democratic Party for a New Society, Norway
  99. Democratic Youth Council
  100. Depayin Township Revolution Steering Committee
  101. Depayin Women Strike
  102. Dhobama (2021 Generation)
  103. Doh Atu – Ensemble pour le Myanmar
  104. East Bago – Former Political Prisoners Network
  105. Educational Initiatives Prague
  106. Equality Myanmar
  107. Ethnic Youth General Strike Committee (Mandalay)
  108. Falam Community – South Australia
  109. Families and Friends of LGBTIQA+ in Myanmar
  110. Federal Corner
  111. Federal Myanmar Benevolence Group (NZ)
  112. Federation of General Workers Myanmar (FGWM)
  113. Former Political Prisoners and New Generation Group – Monywa
  114. FORUMCIV – Sweden
  115. Free Burma Campaign (South Africa)
  116. Free Rohingya Coalition
  117. Future Light Center
  118. Future Thanlwin
  119. Gangaw Women Strike
  120. Gender Equality Network
  121. General Strike Collaboration Committee (GSCC)
  122. General Strike Committee of Basic and Higher Education (GSCBHE)
  123. General Strike Committee of Nationalities (GSCN)
  124. Generation Wave
  125. Global Myanmar Spring Revolution
  126. Grass-root People
  127. Human Rights Educators Network
  128. Human Rights Foundation of Monland
  129. Incorporated Organization Shilcheon Bulgyo
  130. Industrial Training Centre (ITC) Family Sydney
  131. Industries Strike
  132. Info Birmanie
  133. Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID)
  134. Inle Federal Democracy Moment (IFDM)
  135. Inle Woman Union (IWU)
  136. Inlihtan Peninsula Tenasserim
  137. Institute for Asian Democracy
  138. Integria, z.u. Prague
  139. Inter Pares
  140. International Association, Myanmar-Switzerland (IAMS)
  141. International Campaign for the Rohingya
  142. JASS (Just Associates)
  143. JMC Inn Lay
  144. Joint Action Committee for Democracy in Burma (JACDB)
  145. Justice 4 Myanmar – Hope & Development
  146. Justice For Myanmar
  147. Kachin Association Australia
  148. Kachin Association Norway
  149. Kachin Association of Australia WA Inc.
  150. Kachin Student Union
  151. Kachin Women Association Thailand
  152. Kachin Women Network
  153. Kalay Township Strike Committee
  154. Kalay Women Strike
  155. Karen Community – South Australia
  156. Karen Human Rights Group
  157. Karen Peace Support Network
  158. Karen Swedish Community (KSC)
  159. Karenni Association – Norway
  160. Karenni Civil Society Network
  161. Karenni Community of Western Australia Inc.
  162. Karenni Federation of Australia
  163. Karenni Human Rights Group
  164. Karenni National Women’s Organization
  165. Karenni Society New Zealand
  166. Kayah State Students Union
  167. Kayan New Generation Youth
  168. Kayin Community Tasmania
  169. K’cho Ethnic Association
  170. Keng Tung Youth
  171. Korean Civil Society in Support of Democracy in Myanmar (106 organizations nationwide)
  172. Kyae Lak Myay
  173. Kyain Seikgyi Spring Revolution Leading Committee
  174. Kyauktada Strike Committee
  175. La Communauté Birmane de France
  176. Latpadaung Region Strike Committee
  177. Legal Aid for Human Rights
  178. LGBT Alliance
  179. LGBT Alliance Myanmar (Kalay Region)
  180. LGBT Alliance Myanmar (Kyaukse Region)
  181. LGBT Community Yangon
  182. LGBT Union – Mandalay
  183. MAGGA Initiative
  184. Magway People’s Revolution Committee
  185. Maharaungmyay Township People’s Strike
  186. Mandalar University Students’ Strike
  187. Mandalay Alliance Coalition Strike
  188. Mandalay Medical Family (MFM)
  189. Mandalay Regional Youth Association Revolution Core Group
  190. Mandalay Strike Force (MSF)
  191. Mandalay Women Strike
  192. Mandalay Youth Strike
  193. Mandalay-based People’s Strike
  194. Mandalay-Based University Students’ Unions (MDY_SUs)
  195. Matu Burma Foundation
  196. Matu Chin Community – South Australia
  197. MayMyo Strike Force
  198. Metta Campaign
  199. Milk Tea Alliance – Friends of Myanmar
  200. Min Hla Farmers Group
  201. Minbu Farmers Group
  202. Mindat Chin Community NSW
  203. Mindat Community – South Australia
  204. Mizo Community – South Australia
  205. Mon Association – Norway
  206. Mon Families Group
  207. Mon National Council (MNC)
  208. Monywa – Amyint Road Strike Leading Committee
  209. Monywa LGBT Strike
  210. Monywa People’s Strike Steering Committee
  211. Monywa Women Strike
  212. Monywa-Amyint Road Women Strike
  213. Multi-Religions Strike
  214. Muslim Youth Network
  215. Mya Taung Strike
  216. Myanmar Accountability Project
  217. Myanmar Anti-Military Coup Movement in New Zealand
  218. Myanmar Baptist Churches in Norway
  219. Myanmar Buddhist Community of South Australia
  220. Myanmar Campaign Network
  221. Myanmar Catholic Community In Norway
  222. Myanmar Community Coffs Harbour (MCC)
  223. Myanmar Community Group Christchurch New Zealand
  224. Myanmar Community Group Dunedin New Zealand
  225. Myanmar Community in Norway
  226. Myanmar Cultural Research Society – MCRS
  227. Myanmar Democracy and Peace Committee (Australia)
  228. Myanmar Democratic Movement (MDM)
  229. Myanmar Diaspora Group Finland
  230. Myanmar Engineering Association of Australia (MEAA)
  231. Myanmar Engineers – New Zealand
  232. Myanmar Gonye (New Zealand)
  233. Myanmar Hindu Community – Norway
  234. Myanmar Institute of Information Technology Students’ Strike
  235. Myanmar Labor Alliance (MLA)
  236. Myanmar Muslim Organization – Norway
  237. Myanmar People Alliance (Shan State)
  238. Myanmar People Residing in Canberra
  239. Myanmar Refugee Policy Group
  240. Myanmar Students’ Association Australia (MSAA)
  241. Myanmar Students’ Union in New Zealand
  242. Myanmar Teachers’ Federation
  243. Myaung Youth Network
  244. Myingyan Civilian Movement Committee
  245. Nelson Myanmar Community Group New Zealand
  246. Netherlands Myanmar Solidarity Platform
  247. Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma (ND-Burma)
  248. Network of University Student Unions – Monywa
  249. New Zealand Doctors for NUG
  250. New Zealand Karen Association
  251. New Zealand Zo Community Inc.
  252. NLD Organization Committee (International) Norway
  253. NLD Solidarity Association (Australia)
  254. No Business With Genocide
  255. No.12 Basic Education Branch High School (Maharaungmyay) Students’ Union
  256. Norway Falam Community
  257. Norway Matu Community
  258. Norway Rawang Community
  259. NRFF – New Rehmonnya Federated Force
  260. NSW Karenni (Kayah) Communities
  261. Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica
  262. OCTOPUS (ရေဘဝဲ)
  263. Overseas Mon Association. New Zealand
  264. Padauk Finland – Myanmar Association
  265. Pale Township People’s Strike Steering Committee
  266. Parents, Families and Friends of LGBTIQA+ in Myanmar (PFLAG – Myanmar)
  267. Patriotic War Vetrans of Burma (PWVB)
  268. Perth Myanmar Youth Network
  269. Political Prisoners Network – Myanmar
  270. Progressive Karenni People Force (PKPF)
  271. Progressive Voice
  272. Pwintphyu Development Organisation
  273. Pyi Gyi Tagon Strike Force
  274. Pyit Taing Htaung Social Club
  275. Pyithu Gonye (New Zealand)
  276. Queensland Kachin Community (QKC)
  277. Queensland Myanmar Youth Collective (QMYC)
  278. Queensland Rohingya Community
  279. Rangoon Scout Network – RSN
  280. Red Campaign Nirvana Exhortation Group
  281. Remonya Association of WA (Mon Community)
  282. Representative Committee of University Teacher Associations (RC of UTAs)
  283. Rohingya Community in Norway
  284. Rural Community Development Society
  285. Rvwang Community Association New Zealand
  286. Samgha Sammaga-Mandalay
  287. Save and Care Organization for Ethnic Women at Border Areas
  288. Save Myanmar – USA
  289. Save Myanmar Fundraising Group (New Zealand)
  290. Save Myanmar San Francisco
  291. Seinpann Strike
  292. Shan Community (New Zealand)
  293. Shan MATA
  294. Shwe Pan Kone People`s Strike Steering Committee
  295. Shwe Youth Democratic Alliance (SYDA)
  296. Sitt Nyein Pann Foundation
  297. Social Garden
  298. Southcare Medical Centre
  299. Southern Youth Development Organization (SYDO)
  300. Spring Friends
  301. Spring Sprouts
  302. Spring Traveller
  303. Student Voice
  304. Sujata Sisters Group (NZ)
  305. Support for Myanmar
  306. Support Group for Democracy in Myanmar (Netherlands)
  307. Swedish Burma Committee
  308. Swedish Foundation for Human Rights
  309. Swiss Burma Association (ASB)
  310. Sydney Friends for Myanmar Unity
  311. Synergy – Social Harmony Organization
  312. Ta Mar Institute of Development
  313. Ta’ang Women’s Organization
  314. Tamar Institute of Development
  315. Tanintharyi MATA
  316. Tanintharyi Nationalities Congress
  317. Taze Strike Committee
  318. Taze Women Strike
  319. Tenasserim Student Unions’ Network
  320. Thakhin Kodaw Mhine Peace Network (Monywa)
  321. Thayat Chaung Women Strike
  322. The 88 Generation Peace and Open Society (Monywa)
  323. The Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence (KontraS)
  324. The Helpers for Perfect Democracy (HPD)
  325. The Institution of Professional Engineers Myanmar (IPEM)
  326. The Ladies
  327. The Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute Foundation, Inc. (MPI)
  328. Twitter Team for Revolution (TTFR)
  329. U.S. Campaign for Burma
  330. Union of Karenni State Youth (UKSY)
  331. United Myanmar Community of South Australia
  332. University Students’ Unions Alumni Force
  333. Victorian Burmese Care Community (VBCC)
  334. Victorian Myanmar Youth (VMY)
  335. Volunteers in Myanmar
  336. We Pledge CDM (Australia)
  337. Western Australia Myanmar Community (WAMC)
  338. Western Australia Myanmar Democratic Network (WAMDN)
  339. Wetlet Revolution Leading Committee
  340. Wetlet Township Women Strike
  341. White Coat Society Yangon (WCSY)
  342. Women Activists Myanmar (WAM)
  343. Women Advocacy Coalition – Myanmar
  344. Women Alliance Burma (WAB)
  345. Women’s League of Burma
  346. Women’s Peace Network
  347. Yadanabon University Students’ Union (YDNBUSU)
  348. Yadanar Foundation
  349. Yangon Women Strike
  350. Yasakyo Township People`s Strike Steering Committee
  351. Yinmarpin and Salingyi All Villages Strike Committee
  352. Youth for Democratization of Myanmar (UDM)
  353. Youth Heart Beams
  354. Zo Community – South Australia
  355. Zomi Association Australia Inc.
  356. Zomi Christian Fellowship of Norway
  357. Zomi Community – South Australia
  358. Zomi Community Queensland
  359. ကန့်ဘလူမြို့နယ် အထွေထွေသပိတ်
  360. ကရင်နီပြည်စစ်ဘေးရှောင်ကူညီစောင့်ရှောက်ရေးကွန်ယက်
  361. ခုနစ်စဥ်ကြယ်အဖွဲ့
  362. ဒို့မြေကွန်ရက် – LIOH
  363. နားဆင်သူများအဖွဲ့
  364. ပဉ္စမမဏ္ဏိုင်
  365. ပွင့်ဖြူလယ်ယာမြေကွန်ရက်
  366. မျက်မှောက်ခေတ်
  367. မျိုးဆက်-Generations
  368. ယောဒေသစစ်ဘေးရှောင်ကူညီရေးအဖွဲ့
  369. ရပ်ဝန်းသစ် (Yat Wun Thit)

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[1] The number of airstrikes since the Security Council resolution has been calculated using Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica’s monitoring of airstrikes between the resolution on 21 December 2022 and 22 September 2023.

[2] Using Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica’s data on airstrikes, the percentage increase of airstrikes since the Security Council resolution has been calculated by comparing the average number of airstrikes per day between 1 February 2021 and 20 December 2022 with the average number of airstrikes per day between 21 December 2022 and 22 September 2023.

[3] This number from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is a likely under-estimation. The actual numbers reported by local responders with direct access to communities indicate a far higher estimate than that reported by OCHA.