To: The ASEAN Chair, Brunei Darussalam
Copied to: The Secretary General of ASEAN Secretariat
Copied to: The ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC)
Copied to: ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR)
From: Women’s Rights Networks/Organizations, Myanmar
Subject: Appeal from the women of Myanmar to ASEAN

Date: 12 February 2021

On the 1st of February 2021, the democratically elected National League for Democracy led government of Myanmar was deposed in a military coup. Elected government officials, including the President, U Win Myint, and State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, have been detained. As of 12 February, according to Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), more than 400 political leaders, activists, human rights defenders, social influencers and protesters have been arrested by the military. The Commander in Chief, Min Aung Hlaing, has assumed power and he, along with U Myint Swe (former Vice President) have declared a year of State of Emergency. They unilaterally formed a new, hand-picked government, replacing elected officials chosen by the people with those who share their agenda. Myanmar people’s hope for democracy, peace and civilian rule has been untimely destroyed by this coup. Having just emergeded from a half century of military rule to a democratic form of governance, we are now being forced back into militarism.

Democratic institutions are vital to advancing women’s rights and promoting gender equality in Myanmar. We depend on such institutions to protect our fundamental rights to organize, express opinions and participate politically. Without democratic institutions and rule of law, there will remain gross human rights violations including rampant forms of violence against women in conflict zones, perpetrated by state actors.

Myanmar as a Member State of ASEAN has abided by the ASEAN Charter, which adheres to the rule of law, good governance and the principles of democracy and constitutional government. In addition, the Charter includes the promotion and protection of human rights and respect for fundamental freedoms.

We recognize ASEAN’s Theme for 2021 is “We Care, We Prepare, We prosper”. As Myanmar is a member state of ASEAN and in accordance with the circumstances described above, we are appealing to the ASEAN member States to show your CARE, to be PREPARED to support the people of Myanmar as good neighbors so that our region will Prosper together. Accordingly, ASEAN must:

1. Push Myanmar to uphold and honor the results of the 2020 elections. While ASEAN emphasizes mutual respect and noninterference in other countries’ affairs, in this case, non-interference in Myanmar is not an option as the lack of peace and stability in Myanmar will not only affect the country, but will affect its neighbor’s political security, economic prosperity and social stability. Subsequently, every ASEAN Member State’s economic growth, social and cultural growth will be affected. ASEAN inaction on this issue will no doubt bring its reputation into disrepute globally given that international allies like New Zealand and the United States are already acting bilaterally while other multilateral entities like the UN will soon follow suit. To this end, ASEAN’s dialogue partners, the EU and USA have expressed their serious concerns over the situation in Myanmar.

2. Demand Myanmar release all the detainees. President U Win Myint, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Ministers, human rights defenders and hundreds of activists currently are being held by the military. Their human rights must be restored by their immediate release.

3. Issue a strong and immediate statement urging protection of human rights in Myanmar. ASEAN must state that the Myanmar military coup will have consequences and that they will not tolerate further human rights violations. ASEAN in its way of consultation and consensus building and guided by the principles of the peaceful resolution of conflicts should facilitate regional confidence-building and preventive diplomacy on the political and security issues of Myanmar. A strong Statement from the ASEAN Chair would strongly counsel Myanmar to uphold the principles of human rights and democratic governance in accordance with the ASEAN Charter. Member States must act swiftly and apply appropriate measures through a consensus building approach including expressing the grave concern that Myanmar’s standing in the bloc could be affected, including membership, until the Government of Myanmar has demonstrated an improved respect for and commitment to human rights, respect for rule of law and democratic transition of power.

4. Mobilize ASEAN member States to collectively disengage from the Myanmar military and its businesses, given that Myanmar’s actions are in direct violation of the ASEAN Charter.

5. Act in solidarity to build democracy in Myanmar and across the region that ASEAN is greater than the sum of its parts and therefore Myanmar authorities shall not operate with impunity in ways that are inimical to ASEAN principles and purposes as enshrined in the Charter. The people of Myanmar have called for the State to be referred to the International Criminal Court (via UNSC) and we urge you to support us in pursing justice on behalf of persecuted and oppressed population of Myanmar including ethnic, religious minority communities and the Burmese population writ large.

List of Women’s Rights Networks and Organizations endorse on this open letter:

  1. Action Labor Rights
  2. Alliance for Gender Inclusion in the Peace Process
  3. Ar Yone Oo Social Development Association
  4. CEDAW Action Myanmar
  5. DAWN
  6. Equality Myanmar
  7. Gender and Development Institute
  8. Gender Equality Network
  9. Good Shepherd Myanmar Foundation
  10. Human Rights Educators Network
  11. Kachin Women Peace Network
  12. Karen Women Empowerment Group
  13. Local Resource Center
  14. Mandalar Yaung Sin
  15. Muditar Foundation
  16. Myanmar Deaf Community Development Association
  17. Myanmar Ecclesia of Women in Asia
  18. Myanmar Independent Living Initiative
  19. National Network of Rural Women – May Doe Kabar
  20. NGO Gender Group
  21. Pyi Gyi Khin
  22. Ratana Metta Organization
  23. Sex Worker in Myanmar Network
  24. Socio-Economic & Gender Research Institute Myanmar
  25. Spectrum – Sustainable Development Knowledge Network
  26. Student Christian Movement Myanmar
  27. Thandaung Gyi Women Group
  28. Triangle Women Organization
  29. Water, Research and Training Center – Myanmar
  30. Women’s Federation for Peace
  31. Women’s Hand Myanmar Foundation
  32. Women’s Organizations Network (Myanmar)
  33. Yaung Chi Thit