By: Julie Yang
Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor
Nay Pyi Taw, MYANMAR – On December 27, 2022, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s former leader from the National League for Democracy (NLD), received an additional 33 years to her prison sentence.
Suu Kyi was already serving a 26-year prison sentence since being detained by a coup staged by the military junta in February 2021. The junta formed the State Administrative Council (SAC) which seized power from Suu Kyi’s elected democratic government. This sparked a mass civil disobedience movement where people throughout the country partook in protests.
According to the Assistance Association for Political prisoners, the police and military detained more than 17,250 and killed at least 2,465 because of the junta’s violent efforts to silence those in opposition of the coup. The junta’s use of lethal force and military-grade weapons against peaceful protesters and civilians, extrajudicial killings and torture, and systemic abuses amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.
On December 21, 2022, The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted a resolution condemning the junta’s human rights violations and demanding the release of Suu Kyi as well as more than 13,496 political prisoners who remain detained for opposing military rule. The resolution demands the junta to “immediately end all forms of violence”, allow humanitarian access, release all arbitrarily detained prisoners, and respect the “democratic institutions and processes.” It urges “concrete and immediate actions” to implement a peace plan agreed upon by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The resolution faces criticism for failing to state the consequences in the event the junta does not meet the resolution’s demands. Thomas Andrews, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, asserts that mere “[demands] that certain actions be taken without any use of the Security Council’s Chapter VII authority” is not enough. Andrews stresses that targeted coordinated action by UN Member States is necessary to stop the junta and hold them accountable. Such actions include imposing sanctions, cutting off revenue financing the junta’s military, and an embargo on weapons.
After Suu Kyi’s political party won by an overwhelming majority in November 2021, the junta charged Suu Kyi with election fraud. Then, a series of charges including corruption, incitement of public unrest, and breaching Covid-19 protocols followed. Some pro-democracy activists were executed, and other government leaders stood at trial in recent months. Despite the junta’s efforts to extinguish Suu Kyi’s political influence in Myanmar, she remains a figure that inspires resistance against repression.
It is expected that, without action, not only may Suu Kyi remain in prison for the rest of her life, but also the crisis in Myanmar will worsen.
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