Statement on Myanmar4 March 2021
Saferworld stands with civil society and conflict-affected communities in their pursuit of democracy and joins with others in calling for the release of Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) activists, including journalists, human rights defenders, students and elected civilian government leaders. We are deeply concerned by the apparent reversal of semi-democratic reforms made over recent years. We recognise the concerns and fears among people throughout the country that much of their hard work is being undone and that their struggle has become once again more difficult and less safe as Myanmar returns to authoritarian rule like that experienced before 2011.
Tentative reforms that benefited public security over the past 10 years are now being reversed, and actions by the military are threatening the safety of people. The most concerning actions include the changing of laws that give the police and military more arbitrary powers and returning to undemocratic security practices, such as night-time arrests and the use of violence to confront or disturb peaceful protests. The continuing violence against civilians in the peripheries is also a grave concern with long-term consequences for peace and security.
We stand with the people across Myanmar who have been struggling for years to end armed violence and human rights abuses, to gain increased political representation, and to build a just and equitable Federal Democratic Union.
Many ethnic communities faced continued violence and repression, even during the semi-democratic period of 2011-2021. Democratic changes had not yet brought peace or security for these people living in contested areas. However, we firmly believe that the fledgling peace process, the promise of inclusive constitutional reform, and the participation of elected ethnic parties are pre-requisites to a lasting political settlement.
The coming weeks and months are vital for the people of Myanmar. The hard won gains of the last decade, however incomplete, should not be wiped away. We appeal to all international actors who have the people of Myanmar at heart to:
- Listen to and support coalitions of non-violent, pro-democratic and federal movements, including those led by women and young people, that are forming in response to the military actions – these are core actors who will ensure the next chapter in Myanmar’s history is more peaceful, secure, and just.
- Recognise that sweeping sanctions proposed by the international community are likely to increase harm to Myanmar citizens and should be carefully targeted towards those responsible for violence and the reversal of democratic processes.
- Exercise extreme caution and apply a conflict-sensitive lens to the delivery of assistance so that it is not misused by the military, but reaches those who are marginalised and vulnerable, including communities in border areas.
We remain moved by the courage and resilience of our friends and civil society partners in Myanmar who have struggled tirelessly to promote the rights of all people, especially excluded ethnic and religious minority groups. The small but significant testimonies of communities separated by political affiliation, ethnicity, and religion coming together in the face of this adversity, offers hope for the future. We will remain steadfast in our efforts to support all peace actors in preventing violent conflict and building safer lives and to facilitate meaningful, inclusive platforms for dialogue that work towards the adherence to ceasefires and the protection of civilians.