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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
Kamayani Bali Mahabal
Masooma Ranalvi Meena Seshu
Meera Sanghamitra Mira Shiva
Monisha Behal Mridu Kamal
Navsharan Singh Neerja Ved Malik Neha Gupta
Nilanjana Sengupta Nisha Biswas
Padma Velaskar Pamela Philipose Preeti Mehra
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
Sujata Gothoskar Swati Paranjape Suneeta Dhar
Uma Chakravarti Urvashi Sarkar Vanita Mukherjee Vibhuti Patel