On February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military seized power of the nation by staging a coup and declaring a state of emergency for one year. They arrested and detained Myanmar’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and other senior officials of the National League of Democracy (NLD) in a series of raids before the opening of the parliament on the inauguration day of the continuing NLD majority government. The coup and detentions were carried out because the Myanmar military claims the results of the November 8, 2020 elections, which resulted to a landslide win of the NLD, were marred by voter fraud and the government failed to act on these claims.

The conduct of a free and fair election is a key part of a democratic system. Institution-building and strengthening have always been hallmarks of a working democracy that is founded on the human rights of the people. The coup staged by the Myanmar military shows its blatant disregard of the will of the people. A military take-over is the antithesis of a democracy. Such threatens the exercise of fundamental human rights of the people in Myanmar. If indeed there are issues regarding the conduct of elections in Myanmar, the proper recourse is through the democratic institutions.

The Working Group for an ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism (WG-AHRM) is deeply concerned about these events and considers the actions of the Myanmar military to be an undoing of the progress of Myanmar toward democracy, which had only been established in 2015 after five decades of military rule. The WG-AHRM urges the Myanmar military to respect and uphold the democratic process and the rule of law, and to release Myanmar’s democratically elected leaders.

We call upon the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) to respond with immediate and appropriate action and fulfill its mandate to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of the peoples of ASEAN. AICHR, as the established regional human rights body in ASEAN, holds a crucial role in the protection of human rights and should be the prominent actor with regard to human rights issues in the region.

As advocates for human rights and the rule of law, the WG-AHRM expresses it support to Myanmar and its people in their struggle for peace and democracy.