CHRO

16 February 2021

The Honourable Scott Morrison
Prime Minister of Australia
Canberra, Australia

Dear Prime Minister Morrison,

Through the kind introduction by our very good mutual friend Senator Dean Smith, I had the privilege of meeting you at your office in Canberra in December 2018, as part of a delegation of Chin community leaders from different parts of Australia who came to speak to you to thank you in person and to talk about their situation there.

I now write to you with a deep sense of urgency and great expectation to draw your attention to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Burma/Myanmar following the military coup on 1 February 2021. The events following the coup de’tat have witnessed massive display of public opposition and bold civil defiance in the face of brute force of the Tatmadaw, which is notorious for their long history of gross human rights abuses against the peoples of Burma.

On the surface, the crises facing Burma/Myanmar now may seem like a mere power struggle or a contest of ideologies between democracy and dictatorship. Burma’s still unfinished long road ahead towards democracy is to be understood with the structural injustices and grievances long suffered by ethnic and religious minorities in historical context. Sustainable peace, stability and democracy will only take firm root when there is a federal constitutional arrangement accommodative of and agreeable to all the ethnic states in Burma. It is for this reason that strengthening democratic and civic institutions and entrenching the ideals of civilian supremacy and the rule of law must be supported and promoted in parallel with addressing the aspirations of self-governance for the ethnic nationalities within a federal constitutional framework.

The ways in which the Burmese military has responded to peaceful protests, civil disobedience campaigns and general strikes have been roundly condemned by the UN Secretary-General, the UN Human Rights Council and the larger international community. We applaud the strong statement by the Australian Foreign Minister condemning the coup and calling for the release of high-profile leaders and detainees immediately following the coup. We are also highly encouraged that Australia, through its Embassy in Myanmar, has been among the key foreign diplomatic missions in Yangon at the forefront of sounding alarms and taking a firm stand on the side of all the peoples of Myanmar.

The people of Burma cannot afford another decade of living under a military dictatorship. This has been voiced loudly not just on the streets of Burma, but in capitals around the world, including in Australia. Last week, the United States took the initiative to impose tough unilateral sanctions against the coup leaders in Burma. We believe that Australia under your leadership can and should take similar measures to lead a coordinated, effective and decisive global response to the situation in Burma by:

  • Introducing targeted economic sanctions aimed at crippling the economic infrastructures of the junta
  • Rallying international public opinion on the invocation of the UN doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and
  • Suspending and redirecting all existing Australian official bilateral aid programs towards supporting civil society organizations’ efforts to strengthen democratic and human rights development in Burma.

Yours sincerely,

Salai Bawi Lian Mang
Executive Director
Chin Human Rights Organization

PDF Download Available here: CHRO_Letter_Prime Minister Morrison

IMMEDIATE RELEASE
17 Feb 2021

Since 1 Feb 2021, there have been 45 politically motivated arrests of the Chin population in Rakhine and Chin States. On 1 Feb, 9 members from the democratically elected government were arrested in the middle of the night including the Chief Minister, Ministers of Immigration, Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation, Social Affairs and Planning and Finance. Furthermore, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the house were arrested and remain detained. Held at the tactical command in Hakha, the condition of the elected representatives remain unknown.

On 10 Feb, the junta then initiated a wave of arrests of 24 Union Election Commission (UEC) members representing all townships in Chin State and taken to military bases across the state. As protests began, a number of civilians have also been arrested for exercising their right to peaceful protest. On 4 Feb, police arrested four youths and an elderly man in Hakha who were charged under the Penal Code’s 447 specifications on causing “mischief” as they engaged in the nationwide 8 p.m. protests against the coup. As they were detained all were forced to sign confessions at the police station and were given 8-day prison sentences under the legislation.

On 9 Feb, a further 6 youths from Ann Town, Rakhine State were arrested for engaging in peaceful protests in response to the military coup. They have been charged with Art. 25 of the Natural Disaster Management Law and are remanded in custody. They could face up to three years in prison under the legislation.

The detention of Myanmar/Burma’s elected leaders held incommunicado and without the right of habeas corpus is unacceptable. Furthermore, authorities should immediately end arbitrary limits on freedom of expression, information, peaceful assembly, and association which currently poses grave threats to the liberty of all citizens in the country currently protesting the actions of the military junta.

For further information please contact:
Email: [email protected]
Tel: +95 (0) 9781843341

To protect and promote human rights and democratic principles