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IWGIA commemorates the lives lost in the past year in Myanmar; condemns the brutal military rule

One year ago today, just hours before the newly elected parliament of Myanmar/Burma was preparing for its first session, the Myanmar military — called the Tatmadaw — staged a coup d’état, toppling the civilian government over what they claimed were irregularities in the electoral process. The people of Myanmar/Burma overwhelmingly voiced their rejection of the army’s claim that the elections were rigged, and thousands flooded the streets of the country’s cities and towns to show their opposition to the military coup.

If, prior to the coup, it could be said that Indigenous, ethnic and minority groups were the main groups who had borne witness to the brutality of the Tatmadaw for decades; then, since the coup, it can now be said that nearly every corner of the country and the people that reside therein have suffered under the military junta’s power grab and witnessed its violence. People across the world are now witnessing the Tatmadaw’s flagrant disregard for international law in its willingness to kill, injure, abuse and/or detain its own people indiscriminately.

Over the past 12 months, the international community has observed with horror the drastic increase in the number and scope of human rights violations and brutal acts of violence against the civilian population perpetrated by the military. We have seen reports of deliberate attacks on civil structures and places of worship, mass displacements of entire populations, massacres and killings of humanitarian workers, as well as acts of torture and sexual violence. As civic space shrank rapidly and former channels of communication between civil society and authorities disappeared, many civil society organizations were forced to reduce their operations or move underground out of fear of repression from the new rulers of the country.

As the space for civil society to operate in continues to contract and the safety risks associated with human rights monitoring continues to grow, there are fears that the junta may increase tried and tested ways of gaining funds to support its bloody campaign against its own citizens – through massive foreign-funded hydroelectric and extractive projects. There are reports about previously dormant projects getting new life now under the new military government. Such projects will have devastating consequences for the Indigenous, ethnic and minority groups living in these project areas, who are neither informed nor consulted about new developments.

February 1 is a date to commemorate the over 1,500 lives lost for opposing the military rule, as well as the thousands wounded, detained, abused and tortured, and the hundreds of thousands who have lost their land or livelihoods in the intensified armed conflict that followed the military takeover.

As we remember those who have paid the ultimate price in opposing the Tatmadaw, we also salute the brave people of Myanmar/Burma who continue the struggle for the democratic future of their country — a future where the rights of its diverse peoples, including the right to self-determination for its Indigenous Peoples, are recognized and respected.

  • IWGIA calls on the world to continue to show its solidarity and provide support to the peoples of Myanmar/Burma fighting for the democratic future of their country. This support should include making funds available for the documentation and exposure of human rights violations; continuous, strong public denunciation of the human rights violations already confirmed; and support to the human rights defenders and activists engaged in the struggle to overthrow the military regime.
  • IWGIA calls on world governments, international agencies and institutions to de-legitimise the military junta at the global and regional levels and refrain from diplomatic cooperation with it – in line with what the people’s movement has requested. We also encourage them to continue providing support to civilians, including the provision of humanitarian aid distributed through grassroots networks in ways that are determined by the people suffering, safe passage to refugees, and support to human rights defenders.
  • IWGIA calls on international business corporations and financial institutions to ensure that their operations in Myanmar/Burma are not contributing to human rights violations, violence against civilians, land grabbing from Indigenous communities, involuntary population displacement and environmental mismanagement.
  • IWGIA calls on the National Unity Government (NUG) and the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) to recognize the historical marginalization, discrimination and racism against Indigenous Peoples in Myanmar/Burma, and to commit to building a future federal democracy that is truly directed by the self-determination of its many peoples.


For further information, please contact:

Dwayne Mamo, IWGIA Communications Manager at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or +45 5373 2837

Tags: Human rights



IWGIA - International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs - is a global human rights organisation dedicated to promoting and defending Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Read more.

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