GENEVA, February 16, 2021 – The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, today releases the following statement:
“I fear that Wednesday has the potential for violence on a greater scale in Myanmar than we have seen since the illegal takeover of the government on February 1.
A protest rally has been called for downtown Yangon today, and there may be protests in other cities and townships as well, following word that a secretive trial of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint began yesterday. At the same time, I have received reports of soldiers being transported into at least Yangon from outlying regions. In the past, such troop movements preceded killings, disappearances, and detentions on a mass scale.
I am terrified that given the confluence of these two developments – planned mass protests and troops converging – we could be on the precipice of the military committing even greater crimes against the people of Myanmar.
Today I am issuing an urgent call on all governments, individuals and entities that may have influence on Myanmar military authorities to use that influence to convince the junta that rallies planned for Wednesday must be allowed to proceed without detentions or violence. Continued repression of the people of Myanmar’s basic liberties and human rights must end immediately.
I call on the international business community in particular to take immediate action. Urgently call your interlocutors in the State Administrative Council and stress to them that you will be forced to suspend or cease business in Myanmar if they continue down this violent path. Specifically stress to them that under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, businesses and investors shouldsuspend or terminate activities with the Myanmar junta when the risk of involvement in serious human rights abuses can no longer be reasonably managed. I, and many others, would argue we have long passed that threshold. Please implore them to use restraint. Implore them to return power to the people of Myanmar.
As I have made clear in prior statements, those in the chain of command, regardless of rank, can be held liable for any atrocities committed against the people of Myanmar, and they must disobey orders to attack.
Of course, we cannot rely on the Myanmar military to avoid bloodshed out of a moral or legal obligation alone. That is why it is so imperative that all those with influence demand that the junta restrain itself from further violence and arbitrary arrests.
If, as I fear, we see continued mass violence against peaceful protesters, those businesses continuing to work with the military, regardless of their actions, must accept that they are complicit in the violence. As Martin Luther King once said: ‘There comes a time when silence is betrayal.'”
*Mr. Thomas Andrews (United States of America) is the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. A former member of the US Congress from Maine, he has a Washington DC based consulting practice, Andrews Strategic Services. He has worked with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and parliamentarians, NGOs and political parties in Cambodia, Indonesia, Algeria, Croatia, Serbia, Ukraine and Yemen. He has been a consultant for the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma and the Euro-Burma Network, has run advocacy NGOs including Win Without War and United to End Genocide, and is a Robina Senior Human Rights Fellow at Yale Law School.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Comprising the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, Special Procedures is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
UN Human Rights, country page – Myanmar