Robert Bank, President and CEO of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), the leading global Jewish human rights organization, issued the following statement after today’s events in Burma.
“Today’s unfolding coup is a terrifying setback for the cause of democracy and human rights in Burma. In detaining National League for Democracy (NLD) officials and pro-democracy leaders today, Burma is taking yet another step back into the authoritarian days of its past that so many of us hoped were long gone. This step cannot be taken with impunity.
“The Burmese military’s actions today are clearly intended to stamp out the democratic will of the country’s voters, with NLD officials and others detained just hours before the new parliament was scheduled to be seated for the first time since last November’s general elections.
“All government officials detained in the last 24 hours must be immediately released. Democracy must be restored and parliament seated as planned. The military cannot be recognized as the legitimate government after this hostile and undemocratic take-over of the country’s political organs.
“With the country facing political insecurity, while fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, all internet and media connections must remain fully operational to ensure people have the information they need to stay safe. Most importantly, the military must refrain from committing any violence against civilians in the coming days and weeks, especially given its history of widespread attacks on civilians, including during previous coups.”
Today, a one-year state of emergency was decreed in Burma after the country’s military detained government officials from the majority NLD party and other pro-democracy leaders. At the same time, Burma experienced internet and media shutdowns in part of the country adding to anxiety and confusion. The wide-ranging detentions included the country’s civilian leader, State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint, cabinet ministers, chief ministers of several regions, and many others cascading down to village-level officials. The detentions took place just hours before the new parliament was to be seated for the first time since the November 2020 general elections. Ultimate authority is now transferred to the country’s army chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. Min Aung Hlaing has been accused by the United Nations of orchestrating ongoing violence against ethnic minorities, including with genocidal intent against the largely Muslim Rohingya community in 2017, forcing more than 750,000 Rohingya people to flee across the border to Bangladesh, where they remain.
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