Advocates, Congressman Meeks Call for U.S. Action on Myanmar One Year After the Coup

Listen to a full audio recording of this call here and read the full transcript here. 

On January 27, Refugees International hosted a media briefing with the help of Global Witness, Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, and others, on the humanitarian situation in Myanmar nearly one year after the military coup last February.

Today, more than 14 million people in the country are estimated to need humanitarian assistance, the number of internally displaced people has nearly doubled, with 320,000 people newly displaced, and some 25,000 refugees have fled to other countries.  

The speakers, joining from the on the ground within or along the borders with Myanmar, highlighted the dire situation, outlined how the coup has affected Myanmar over the last year, and called for the international community to help.

This briefing included a pre-recorded message from Chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee, U.S. Representative Gregory Meeks (D-NY 5th District). In his message he said: “Through the civil disobedience, their shadow government, the people of Burma have responded to terror, torture, and murder with courage, creativity, and resolve. They will not go back to the days of endless martial rule. And I look forward to passage of a bill that I have put forward…The United States and its partners, the United Nations, and ASEAN, all need to do more to apply economic and diplomatic pressure on the military junta to end the killings and detentions and create a path back toward a democratic transition. A year may have passed, but I assure you that our focus and commitment remains unchanged. Thank you very much.” The representative led in introducing the BURMA Act which authorizes targeted sanctions against the Burmese military.

Salai Za Uk Ling, deputy director at Chin Human Rights Organization, added: “The coup has further emboldened the military, which already stands accused of genocide for its treatment of the Rohingya, to kill and destroy anyone and anything in its path. Having been documenting the military’s human rights abuse for more than two decades, I’m well familiar with its brutal tactics, but I have rarely across the extent of spine-chilling inhumanity, which the military has shown across the country in recent months…This past year, my colleagues and I have too many losses and too much suffering and destruction, and we are increasingly feeling abandoned in our efforts to stop the military for committing further human rights abuse. In this regard, I’d like to urge lawmakers in the United States Congress to work together in a bipartisan manner for the swift passage of the BURMA Act, which is our best hope for the achievement of democracy and human rights in Burma.”

Former Karenni refugee, activist, and Director of the Karenni Human Rights Group, Banya Khung Aung talked about the daily violence: “Then, according to our…records and also the civilian casualties, we have up to 178 civilians who have been killed … after the coup. Then, one of our highlights is that up to 97, of the amount of the 178, up to 97 have been arrested or detained, and tortured and killed. This is very horrible. That’s including the massacre killings on Christmas Eve… Now, we are counting all together, about 45 persons dead.”

And Ko Ye, an activist, said: “We need to defend our people. We need to defend democracy in Myanmar. We need to restore democracy in Myanmar. This is why I would like to request President Biden to impose sanction on the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise immediately. That can stop the tragedy…in Myanmar. So that can be reduced, the losing the life of Myanmar…So I want to request the international community, especially the U.S. government, we need prompt action. We need the tangible action right now.”

Refugees International Deputy Director for Africa, Asia, and the Middle East Daniel P. Sullivan said: “We’re looking at a year since the February 1st military coup in Burma. This has been, as UN officials have said, a multidimensional crisis with political, health, economic, human rights, and humanitarian consequences…there’s both a need to address the root causes with the Myanmar military through increased international pressure, and a lot of that is contained in the BURMA Act. But there’s also a need to take some more immediate steps to address the humanitarian crisis, steps like working with Myanmar’s neighbors, particularly Thailand, to facilitate cross-border aid through local networks.” 

Listen to a recording of the call here

Read more about the situation in Myanmar and what the international community can do to help in Daniel Sullivan’s Dire Consequences: Addressing the Humanitarian Fallout from Myanmar’s Coup.

Learn more about the BURMA Act here.

Photo Caption: Demonstrators make the three finger salute and hold flares during a flash mob protest against the military coup in Yangon, Myanmar on July 7, 2021 to mark the 59th anniversary of the military’s bloody crackdown on student protests at Yangon University in 1962. Photo Credit: Myat Thu Kyaw/NurPhoto via Getty Images.