Press release | Feb. 1, 2021

Global Witness condemns Myanmar military takeover and calls for international sanctions on military

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In response to the unfolding military coup in Myanmar, Global Witness is calling on Myanmar’s military to immediately and unconditionally release Aung San Suu Kyi, other senior members of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) and other political parties, and human rights activists and others who have been unlawfully arrested. The military must adhere to the rule of law and respect the result of the democratic elections in November 2020.

The military (known as the Tatmadaw) has declared a year-long state of emergency, appointing retired Lieutenant General Myint Swe as acting president. Despite its claims that it is acting within the 2008 constitution, this is a clear attempt to overturn the outcome of the November election which the NLD won with 83  percent of the vote and international observers found that voters were able to freely express their will at the polls and choose their elected representatives.

“The February 1 detention of civilian leaders and human rights activists is an outrageous and unacceptable attack on the will of the people of Myanmar and the democratic gains, however imperfect, that Myanmar has achieved over the past decade,” said Paul Donowitz, Myanmar Campaign Leader at Global Witness.

“As the newly elected Parliament was about to convene for the first time, the Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing and military leaders more broadly have acted unilaterally and undemocratically to impede the formation of a new government and ensure they retain political and economic control,” added Donowitz.

Global Witness is joining international calls for the Tatmadaw to rescind the State of Emergency and return power to the elected civilian government. We are also calling on governments to impose a global arms embargo and targeted sanctions against Myanmar’s military leaders and their economic interests.

The military’s economic interests have allowed them to resist civilian oversight and enabled their widespread and ongoing abuses against the people of Myanmar, including the Rohingya population and other ethnic minorities. We echo the call of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar for targeted economic sanctions. We think these sanctions should begin with powerful military conglomerates Myanmar Economic Corporation and Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Company Limited, as well as Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other senior military officials.

“For far too long, the Tatmadaw has enjoyed impunity for its abuses against the people of Myanmar. This continued impunity has helped sustain its power and enabled the takeover we are seeing today,” said Donowitz. “The international community must make it clear that this coup is unacceptable and take immediate and unified action to hold military leaders including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing accountable,” he concluded.


Preview image credit: Minzayar / Global Witness

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