Call for urgent action against Myanmar junta

When elections are not the solution

As Myanmar marked the third anniversary of its military coup a large number of global pro-democracy organizations urged the United Nations Security Council to act in accordance with its mandate for peace and security and take concrete actions against the military junta. These actions must reflect the gravity of the mass atrocity crimes against the people of Myanmar committed by the junta for which the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the UNSC to refer the Myanmar crisis to the International Criminal Court, said an open letter addressing the members of the UNSC.

“We find that the UNSC’s adoption of Resolution 2669, which passed its one-year mark in December 2023, not only came too little and far too late– after decades of atrocities by the Myanmar military– but also produced no concrete progress towards halting the military’s genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, which have only intensified since the adoption of the resolution,” asserted the letter, endorsed by  462 civil society organizations, adding that since its adoption, the military junta has launched at least 909 airstrikes, killing more than 364 civilians including scores of children, and torched nearly 80,000 houses.

Over the last year, it is undeniable that the military junta’s violence has become more targeted against civilian populations with blatant attacks on villages, towns, internally displaced person camps, and religious sites where the refugees were seeking space, schools, and hospitals.  Since the coup attempt, the junta has killed at least 4,450 people and arrested more than 25,900 people, with more than 19,900 individuals still detained, including President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Today, dire humanitarian needs are alarmingly increasing across the southeast Asian country, with more than 2.6 million people having been displaced. Civil society has repeatedly called on international actors, including ASEAN, UN agencies, and international non-governmental organizations, to cease any attempts at partnership with the junta in the name of humanitarian aid. Partnering with the junta only exacerbates the crisis at hand, including by allowing the military rulers to continue to block aid from reaching the populations under its attacks,” added the letter.

Myanmar’s future can only be defined by the will of its people, not the misguided initiatives of the international community. The people of Myanmar have bravely and courageously proven their aspirations and determination to end the military’s decades-long violence and to achieve long-lasting peace in Myanmar where people of diverse backgrounds can co-exist with equal rights and dignity in a truly inclusive federal democracy. It is time for the international community, particularly the UNSC, to align itself with the will of the people of Myanmar through swift, meaningful action.

Needless to mention, the junta’s election plans go hand in hand with its relentless violence against the unarmed civilians across Myanmar. Over the last three years, the junta has imposed illegal draconian laws to terrorise the opponents, disband many political parties (including the Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy) and also guarantee its success in the polls.

Meanwhile, the anti-junta outfits of Myanmar denounced the plan of military dictators to conduct the elections arguing that 27.5 million voters had already given their mandate in the November 2020 general elections to rule the country without the intervention of militaries. The pro-democracy groups pointed out that the current batch of military rulers are planning ‘to hold a sham election as one of its hallmark attempts to claim a democratic mandate, gain international legitimacy, and normalize its relations with foreign countries’.

“The military junta, which is plunging the country into a dire human rights, humanitarian, and economic catastrophe, lacks any legitimacy to conduct a national election,” said Progressive Voice, a participatory rights-based policy research and advocacy organization of Myanmar, adding that the last national polls showcased the unwavering commitment of its nationals for a democratic future without military control. But the military dictator Min Aung Hlaing led a coup on 1 February 2021 to oust the democratically elected government in Naypyidaw.

“Since the military coup, the Myanmar people have united and coordinated a resistance movement against the military junta. They have collectively prevented the junta from seizing an effective control over the country. Today, because of the people’s resistance, the junta lacks the administrative control of major parts of Myanmar. Across the country, resistance groups have been building Myanmar’s federal future from the ground up with inclusive, people-centric governance,” said Khin Ohmar, chairperson of Progressive Voice, asserting that the illegal and murderous junta has no legitimacy to organize and conduct an election.

“The international community must not fall prey to the junta’s desperate grasp at legitimacy that would only be weaponized to misrepresent the grave reality of Myanmar’s multi-faceted crisis and prolong the military junta’s decades-long oppression of the people,” stated Ohmar, while talking to this writer from an undisclosed location of Myanmar. She also insisted that the international community ‘must denounce the military junta’s sham election plans, and instead actively support the people of Myanmar in their pursuit of genuine federal democracy and sustainable peace’.

Needless to mention, the junta’s election plans go hand in hand with its relentless violence against the unarmed civilians across Myanmar. Over the last three years, the junta has imposed illegal draconian laws to terrorise the opponents, disband many political parties (including the Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy) and also guarantee its success in the polls. The National Unity Government, an interim government formed by the elected lawmakers, who were not allowed to function, seemingly holds the public mandate to work with ethnic councils and various resistance organizations for establishing a genuine federal democracy in Myanmar.

Nava Thakuria
Nava Thakuria
Nava Thakuria is an independent Indian journalist based in Kamrup, Assam

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