For most of the period since independence from Britain in 1948, the people of Myanmar have lived under military rule. During this time, democracy activists were killed or imprisoned, and elite members of the Myanmar’s armed forces accumulated massive wealth.
Throughout this period, the Burmese-dominated military waged war on many of the country’s ethnic minorities, notably the Karen, Shan, Kachin, Karenni, Chin and Rohingya. For example, Myanmar’s military has murdered, raped and destroyed Rohingya communities, with what the UN calls “genocidal intent”. Some 140,000 persecuted Karen people have been forced to live in refugee camps in Thailand for decades.
Following a period of democratic transition from 2010, with relatively free and fair elections in 2015 and 2020, the National League for Democracy (NLD), headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, won the November 2020 elections in a landslide.
On February 1, the day the newly-elected parliament was to have its inaugural session, the military instigated a coup, arresting and imprisoning elected parliamentarians.
Since then, continual protests throughout the country, often led by young people, organised labour and ethnic minority groups, have challenged the coup leaders. Since the coup, more than 700 people, including children, have been killed, and thousands have been injured and imprisoned by the security forces.
Socialist Alliance vehemently condemns the coup. We acknowledge the courage and commitment of the people of Myanmar who are resisting the military, and we stand in solidarity with them. We strongly condemn the military’s use of force against pro-democracy protestors and the imprisonment of elected representatives and democracy activists.
Socialist Alliance acknowledges the key role of youth in the leadership of the civil disobedience movement and the importance of labour strikes in this struggle. We also note the new-found recognition of the appalling treatment of ethnic minorities and the collaboration between the Burmese majority and ethnic minority groups, including the Rohingya, in this common struggle.
We call on Myanmar’s military leadership to:
- Cease its brutal repression of pro-democracy protests;
- Release all political detainees; and
- Reinstate the elected civilian government;
We condemn the Australian government for its belated decision to cease aid to Myanmar’s military and calls on the government to:
- Promote wide-ranging international action against Myanmar’s military, including diplomatic pressure, international legal pressure and a global arms embargo;
- Impose targeted sanctions — including ceasing economic ties and freezing assets — on military-owned and controlled companies and their substantial business associates;
- Maintain aid to Myanmar, with priority given to the victims of human rights violations and the civil disobedience movement;
- Provide asylum with permanent protection to temporary visa holders from Myanmar and the Rohingya population in exile; and
- Pursue and support international criminal proceedings against Myanmar’s military regime, including at the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.
We call on Australian companies operating in Myanmar to:
- Suspend operations and divest from any relationships with military owned, controlled or linked businesses, to ensure that no money flows to the Myanmar military
[The Socialist Alliance released the above statement on May 31.]