Open Letter Myanmar Situation: Manipur and North-eastern Region India Concerns


To
: Member and Observer States of the United Nations Human Rights Council Regarding the Urgent Situation in Myanmar

Subject: Open Letter from the Civil Society of Manipur calling on the Council’s immediate action to ensure the protection of protesters, ensure the protection of the Right to Health, and support the continuation of the peaceful political process for democracy in Myanmar

Excellencies,

We, the signatories of this open letter, write to convey our deepest concern regarding the currently unfolding situation in Myanmar, and the safety and physical integrity of the people of Myanmar. The situation has many implications in our neighbourhood, in Manipur in particular and the North-eastern Region of India as a whole. We, therefore seek the urgent and serious attention of the UNHRC to this situation.

The coup d’├ętat in Burma, on 1st February, 2021, by overthrowing the democratically elected government, imposing a state of emergency and taking the reins of the government by a military junta are unacceptable developments fraught with impending disaster for the citizens of Myanmar and the socio-economic development of the country, derailing the fragile seeking of a democracy in the country and upsetting the delicate balances in the immediate region.

The present situation in Myanmar is difficult to assess accurately because of the communications shutdowns and the severe curtailment of the freedom of expression. Myanmar ratified the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) on 6th October 2017, and acceded to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) on 15th July 1991. Human rights, being firmly and unequivocally founded on the recognition and respect of human dignity inherent in every individual, are universal, indivisible, interrelated, and interdependent.

Being aggrieved with the developments and the army rule,over the past days from 2nd February 2021, citizens of Myanmar have come outto the streets and are openly staginga peaceful civil disobedience protest against the military junta. Healthcare workers, textile workers, students and civil service personnel, and many others have reportedly joined this civil disobedience movement underway. Martial law and night curfew from 8:00 PM to 4:00 AM has been imposed in several cities and townships of the country, especially in Mandalay and Ayeyarwaddy. Across the country, in many areas, including in Yangon, the commercial hub of the country, Section 144 of the Penal Code prohibiting assembly and movement has been imposed. Two innocent civilian protesters were killed by the police yesterday, on 9th February 2021, and many are reported to be injured and undergoing treatments in hospitals. The numbers of those arbitrarily detained by the military junta are growing every day.

The possibility of a violent response from the military and police is a very real and imminent reality in Myanmar, reminiscent of past crackdowns in 1962 and 1988. Our deep concerns are for the safety of the protesters, including children, women and young persons, and the public health imperatives of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic.

Manipur, and the North-eastern region of India, is in the immediate neighbourhood of Myanmar with a common international border. Large parts of this region are under the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA), a military law that the UNHRC has called repeatedly for repeal through the Universal Periodic Review process. The AFSPA has been imposed because of numerous armed movements by ethnic national minorities against the government of India. Since the past four decades, Manipur and North-eastern region has witnessed many refugees from Myanmar fleeing from ruthless and violent military regimes. We are deeply concerned that the current situation, if allowed to escalate, will result in a fresh wave of refugees into Manipur and the North-eastern region, populated by ethnic national minorities and indigenous peoples, further exacerbating the existing fragile and unstable political situation where peace processes have been underway since the 90s.

Manipur and the North-eastern region have been witnessing a dramatic reduction in COVID-19 cases over the recent weeks. Manipur reported only 7 new cases over the past 24 hours. Meanwhile, Manipur is lagging seriously behind in vaccination targets (21.3 per cent of initial targets) in the 1st phase. Neighbouring Nagaland State also scored a low 21.5 per cent during this initial round. Such a situation can easily and speedily take a negative turn if large-scale external displacement from Myanmar occurs, where the pandemic figures are inaccurate, and new cases are reportedly still on the rise.

Thus, it is with great urgency that we the undersigned call on the Member and Observer States of the UN Human Rights Council in your upcoming 29th Special Session on the human rights implications of the crisis in Myanmar to pass a Resolution calling for:

·         An urgent greater monitoring of the fast-unfolding human rights crisis in Myanmar, including by immediately sending a delegation to Myanmar to monitor the situation on the ground and report back to the Council and other relevant bodies;

·         Enhanced and vigorous reporting on the situation of human rights in Myanmar to the Council and other relevant UN bodies and specialised agencies;

·         Increased support and resources for the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar to effectively document and report on all urgent human rights developments, including the right to health;

·         The establishment of a comprehensive response to ensure long-term federal democratic and human rights change in the country, including by ensuring support towards constitutional change that would bring the military under civilian control and ensure accountability for grave human rights violations.

In addition, we call for a Resolution to urge the Myanmar military regime to:

·         Refrain from using all forms of violence, arbitrary arrests, and reprisals against peaceful protesters and respect people’s right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly;

·         Immediately and unconditionally release all those who have been arbitrarily detained, and to ensure their safety;

·         Allow unfettered telecommunications and Internet access, including on all mobile phone networks and lift all restrictions on access to media sites, social media platforms, VPN and refrain from imposing any further restrictions against use of Internet and social media platforms;

·         Immediately allow all humanitarian aid and health support to resume work unimpeded;

·         End all violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws in ethnic and ceasefire areas, and that all civilians are protected, including lifting of barriers to humanitarian assistance and ensuring the non-interference of aid to ethnic areas.

We further call on UN Member States to consider imposition of strategic and targeted steps against the Myanmar military as an institution, including military-owned and controlled companies and their substantial business associates in accordance with the recommendations of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.

Please accept the assurance of our highest consideration.

For information, please contact:

Rajesh Ningthoukhongjam, Community Action for Democracy, Manipur

Dr. Debabrata Roy Laifungbam, Member (Asia Region), Executive Committee of the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), Denmark

Community Network for Empowerment (CoNE), Manipur

Centre for Organisation Research & Education (CORE), Manipur

Centre for Research and Advocacy (CRAM), Manipur

Centre for Women and Girls (CWG), Manipur

Human to Humane Transcultural Centre for Torture Victims and Trauma (H2H)

Mobile Journalists Association of India (MOJAI)

Women in Governance (WinG), Manipur

Women in Governance (WinG), India

Samadon Sanglen, Manipur

Prof.MayengbamAkshyayakumar Singh (Clinical Psychologist)

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