TAPOL Stands With the People of Myanmar 

22 Mar 2021

(London, 22 March 2021)  TAPOL condemns the coup d’etat and violence against protestors by the Myanmar military, also known as the Tatmadaw. While we appreciate the work of the Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Myanmar on this crisis, we regret the inaction of many United Nations (UN) member states which for the most part have done little despite the deteriorating situation. 

TAPOL is a London-based human rights organization campaigning for democracy in Indonesia. Our recent work has focused on the rights of political prisoners, rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and continued Indonesian military occupation in West Papua. Extreme militarism is rising in Southeast Asia and will further influence and exacerbate conflict in the highly militarized West Papua.  

Since the military seized control on 1 February 2021, human rights organizations and media have reported that there have been thousands of cases of extrajudicial killings, torture and enforced disappearances. Many of the victims are reported to be children. The military have used arbitrary detentions of civilians and journalists, and caused mass displacement. Internet and mobile shutdowns by the military have further decreased democratic space. 

There are historical parallels between the involvement of the militaries of Myanmar and Indonesia in politics. After overthrowing civilian governments within a three year period (1962 in Myanmar, 1965 in Indonesia), each military portrayed itself as the only force able to unify very diverse nations. In Myanmar and Indonesia this often meant putting down pro-independence movements in areas distant from the centres of power. After 1998, the Indonesian military continued to commit human rights abuses to enforce the inclusion of West Papua, Aceh and East Timor in Indonesia with campaigns continuing in West Papua. In Myanmar, the military has forcibly excluded and committed atrocities against the Rohingya, and until the signing of ceasefire accords, fought wars against other ethnic groups. When a transition to democracy came in Indonesia, the military clung on to its business interests because civilian politicians were unwilling to enact reform; the Tatmadaw has also profited from extensive business interests. Many officers in Indonesia continue to be involved in political parties. After electoral defeat in 2015 to the National League for Democracy (NLD), current coup leader Min Aung Hlaing focussed on securing continued military influence in state institutions.

The widespread and systematic nature of the crimes committed by the Tatmadaw has led to fears of crimes against humanity. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has failed to help deliver peace and stability in Myanmar. TAPOL believes it is imperative the international community take strong collective action to prevent the illegal military government from committing further human rights abuses. There needs to be an immediate restoration of democratic government which only international action, in support of the popular rejection of the coup, can bring about.