South Asia

'Release Thin Thin Aung': Women Activists Urge India, Global Stakeholders to Focus on Myanmar

In a statement, activists have held that the journalist and pro-democracy activist is one among many held arbitrarily by the military in Myanmar.

New Delhi: Several prominent women rights advocates from all walks of life in India have released a statement urging the Myanmar military to release journalist and activist Thin Thin Aung and other illegally detained pro-democracy protesters.

In an appeal, both to the military which assumed power since the coup and to the international community including transnational business stakeholders, the activists have urged that the brutal violence perpetrated on protesters in Myanmar end and people’s rights be restored.

“We, in neighbouring India, are extremely troubled at the humanitarian and human rights crisis  resulting from the February 1 military coup,” the activists write.

They note that the violent crackdown by the military, on these democratic protests against its assumption of power, have resulted in hundreds of killings, including that of children. There have also been arbitrary arrests and air strikes.

According to the rights group, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, since the  February 1 military coup, statistics of indiscriminate killings are pushing upwards of 600, with  more than 4,000 arbitrary arrests, the statement notes.

Also read: What Is Keeping India on the Wrong Side of History With Myanmar?

The statement makes special mention of Thin Thin Aung, a pro-democracy activist and co-founder of the online news outlet Mizzima. Thin Thin went missing on April 8 and was found held at the Yay Kyi Eaing interrogation centre, which activists describe as “notorious”. In addition, her house was ransacked, her computer seized and the entirety of her and her news outlet’s funds taken away. Others associated with Mizzima, including co-founder Daw Thin Thin Aung, staffer James, and reporters Ko Zaw Zaw and KoThan Htike Aungare are also in custody.

“Some of us know Thin Thin. She lived amongst us for 15 years in exile as a Burmese refugee.  She was one among the many student activists seized by the dream of democratic freedom in  1988, when the Myanmar military experimented with a democratic election and Aung Sang Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy won,” the statement poignantly notes.

Anti-coup protesters burn a Chinese flag in Yangon, Myanmar April 5, 2021. Photo: Reuters/Stringer

The activists also write that at that time when Thin Thin took the fight for democracy to Mizoram, India had been sympathetic to student refugees.

Also read: Fourteen Lawmakers from Suu Kyi’s Party Fled to India From Myanmar, Says Mizoram Police

“Many of us remember Thin Thin working in Delhi to get basic  entitlements of food and shelter for less fortunate Burmese women refugees. When after 50  years of military rule Myanmar opened up, Thin Thin and Soe-Mynt left for Myanmar, becoming  part of the struggle to build independent journalism there. Once in Yangon, Thin Thin carried  over her struggle for women’s rights through the Women’s League for Democracy. She also  carried with her goodwill and friendship towards India and Indians. Many of us met her at  meetings in Kathmandu and Brussels. She, determinedly, pushed against the patriarchies  entrenched during 50 years of military rule and its accompanying social hyper-masculinities,” the statement notes.

While outspoken on the need for inclusion of and attention to women of the ethnic nationalities of Myanmar, the statement recognises that “sadly that did not include the persecuted Rohingya.”

The statement makes an appeal, to democratic governments like India, to not posit themselves on the wrong side of history in their reaction to Myanmar’s brutality.

“We are distressed at the Indian government’s equivocation and delay in robust condemnation of  the violence and support for the peoples’ will,” it notes, adding that the instance of India’s diplomatic representatives participating in Myanmar’s military day parade  in the midst of mounting evidence of the brutal use of force is a distressing one.

Also read: On Bloodiest Day for Myanmar Civilians, India Attends Military Parade by Coup Leaders

The statement also expresses outrage at the government’s stance on deporting Rohingya Muslim refugees (including a 14-year-old girl) as ‘illegal migrants’ back to Myanmar from where they fled ethnic cleansing and where after the  military coup the rule of law has been suspended. 

“We are perturbed at why for Indian state owned and private enterprises it is business as usual, when other democracies are snapping economic and military links,” the statement says.

“The UN independent Fact Finding Mission 2019 has warned foreign companies, including  named Indian companies, to sever their economic relationship with the hydra headed military business conglomerates or risk being seen as complicit in the military’s violation of human  rights. In the backdrop of the coup, three interrelated international accountability processes  are taking place focused on Myanmar’s human rights abuses – particularly the Rohingya  genocide: at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), at the International Criminal Court (ICC) and  the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM), which was created by the UN.”

The statement ends in three bullet points highlighting the crux of the concerns:

  • We appeal that the military should be pressured to immediately release Thin Thin Aung and others  illegally detained.  
  • We urge that in the interim, the military coup council give immediate access to International  Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to Thin Thin Aung and the other detained as per humanitarian law  and protocols.  
  • We are in complete solidarity with the people of Myanmar at this critical hour.  

A full list of the statement’s signatories is below.

Aarti Sethi 

Aanchal Kapur 

Abha Bhaiya 

Albertina Almeida 

Alaka Basu 

Amrita Chhacchi 

Amrita Shodan 

Anuradha Banerji  

Anuradha Kapoor 

Anuradha Rajan 

Aruna Burte 

Aruna Gnanadason 

Arundhati Duru 

Brinelle Dsouza 

Chhaya Datar 

Chayanika Shah 

Devaki Jain 

Dhiviya David 

Enakshi Ganguly 

Gabriele Dietrich 

Geeta Seshu 

Govind Kelkar 

Hasina Khan 

Jyoti Mhapsekar 

Kalpana Viswanath 

Kalyani Menon-Sen 

Kamla Bhasin 

Kamayani Bali Mahabal 

Karuna DW, 

Kavita Krishnan 

Kochurani Abraham 

Lalita Ramdas

Lara Jesani 

Lata Singh 

Madhu Mehra 

Masooma Ranalvi Meena Seshu 

Meera Sanghamitra Mira Shiva  

Monisha Behal Mridu Kamal 

Nandini Rao 

Nandita Shah 

Navsharan Singh Neerja Ved Malik Neha Gupta 

Neha Sood 

Nilanjana Sengupta Nisha Biswas 

Padma Velaskar Pamela Philipose Preeti Mehra 

Pyoli Swatija 

Rajashri Dasgupta Ranjana Padhi 

Rita Manchanda Roshmi Goswami Sabina Martins Sadhna Arya 

Sandhya Phadle Sarika Sinha 

Saswati Ghosh Seema Sreeniwas Shahida Murtaza Shalmali Guttal 

Sheba Chhachhi Sheba George 

smita v 

Sreekala MG 

Sujata Gothoskar Swati Paranjape Suneeta Dhar 

Teena Gill 

Uma Chakravarti Urvashi Sarkar Vanita Mukherjee Vibhuti Patel 

Vrinda Grover