Today is a dark day for Myanmar and, indeed, the world. Amid the backdrop of the heinous and abhorrent invasion of Ukraine and the numerous war crimes visited upon the Ukrainian people, the Myanmar genocidal military has sought to follow the Russian example of brutality and cruelty. The reintroduction of capital punishment is a blight on our nation on humanity as a whole. For the military generals to not only stoop so low, but also inaugurate their return to medieval cruelty with a quadruple execution is barbarism beyond comprehension.
Today we, the people of Myanmar, all are Hla Myo Aung, we are Ko Aung Thura Zaw, we are Phyo Zeya Thaw, and we are Ko Jimmy. In a country where every ninth person is suffering food shortage, a country where more than one million civilians have fled their homes and villages and have nowhere to live, a country where everyone has lost a family member or a friend to hunger, exposure, war, landmines, arbitrary killings, or the COVID pandemic the military did their utmost to exacerbate, we are all the victims of the military’s crimes. We have not all met the same fate as the four young men horrifically taken from us on Saturday, but rest assured, if the military could, they would see every Myanmar man woman and child who does not bend to their will swinging from the gallows. The generals would sooner rule over a nation of rotting corpses than give up their fever-dream of total and complete domination of Myanmar’s people, resources, and political institutions.
In their obsessive campaign to crush dissent and opposition, the junta will do any unthinkable and vile act. Anything that weakens, terrifies, or kills their opponents is justified in their mind. Such thinking is evident in power-hungry despots around the world, and is on full display in Eastern Ukraine right now. Fortunately for the Ukrainians, they have the leadership of men like President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. We in Myanmar have the staunch leadership of men like Ko Jimmy, Phyo Zeya Thaw, Hla Myo Aung, and Ko Aung Thura Zaw. They, and tens of thousands of young men and women like them, willing to lay down their lives for freedom and democracy are our true leaders. They are the spirit, heart, and soul of our revolution. It is for this reason that the genocidal military fear them and have resolved to murder and execute every one of them.
And yet, as terrible as this grotesque miscarriage of justice is, it has served a higher purpose. Today, for the first time in many months, the eyes of the international community are trained on Myanmar. The military have worked hard to hide the worst excesses of their savagery in rural, ethnics and border areas with limited internet and electricity to protect their reputation despite their well-documented ongoing crimes against humanity. What little ground they have gained politically, what little semblance of reason and rationality they scraped together has now been squandered.
In their wild and erratic attempts to suppress the Spring Revolution, the genocidal military generals have drawn the attention and the rebuke of the civilized world. No legitimate government needs to silence dissent at the gallows. The threat of death is not a valid argument against the demand for human rights, democracy, freedom, and self-determination. The military have laid bare their contempt for international norms and for their own people. No-one can now entertain the notion that the military can be reasoned with, that the military would ever tolerate a gradual transition back to democracy, that the military could establish and maintain in Myanmar a stable and peaceful regime. The military respects only its own entitlement and supremacy and knows only force and fear as the means to enforce them. The executions of our comrades mark only the newest escalation in the military’s long history of human rights violations, and without immediate and decisive actions, we can expect the military’s cruelty, inhumanity and brutality to grow worse.
ASEAN must now recognize that the junta do not care, and do not listen. They pretended to accept the five-point consensus while implementing none of it. They hosted the special envoy Prak Sokhonn, but routinely denied him access to Aung San Suu Kyi and the dozens of other high level political prisoners. They welcome ASEAN calls for dialogue and negotiation internationally, but turn around and make unequivocal rejections domestically of any peace process which would undermine the military’s complete and total hegemony. The junta’s one stalwart ally in ASEAN has been Cambodia whose Prime Minister implored the generals not to go ahead with their foolish and utterly pointless exercise in cruelty and barbarity. In their arrogance the junta have embarrassed their ally, and ASEAN as a whole in one fell swoop. There is no more space or time for excuses. ASEAN must accept the obvious: the military regime has no respect or regard for ASEAN, the five-point consensus, or the attempts of ASEAN member states to negotiate an end to the hostilities. The junta has played ASEAN for fools, stalling for time, posting photos of every ASEAN engagement to which they are invited to paint an image of legitimacy, and all the while accelerating their campaign of terror, pain, suffering, destruction, and death. ASEAN must not allow itself to be abused and defrauded any more. They must take firm, decisive, and immediate action, and demand that the junta lay down its arms and allow the duly elected representatives of the Myanmar people to take their rightful places in government for the people by the people.
The United Nations likewise must not delay action any further. What more evidence could there be that the junta represents a clear and immediate threat to all of the values, principles, and ideals which the UN was formed to defend? The military regime fights tooth and nail to crush the notion of democracy and civilian government, to return Myanmar to an isolationist servile feudal state beneath a privileged and cruel militant class, presided over by warlords and their cronies. The generals have undone four decades of custom and returned to the darkest and most abhorrent tool of subjugation – capital punishment. Though a murder by any other name is still a murder, and while Myanmar and the world reels from the news of four democracy activists brutally killed in a mindless show of vengeance and force, they represent a microcosm of the murders, the violence, the brutality, and carnage the military have visited on Myanmar since the coup, or indeed since the coup of 1962. The generals have made it clear that they do not respect the norms or laws of the international community. They expect, wholeheartedly, to be forgiven for any transgression which is, in their minds, their divine right. Last week we witnessed in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) the junta’s brazen attempts to shirk investigation for genocide they have committed against Rohingya. Not for lack of evidence, but rather on the grounds that they do not recognize the right of the ICJ to investigate their affairs, nor the right of the Gambia to raise concerns in the first place. The Myanmar military is antithetical to the very notion of an international community, the rule of law, and accountability. Their seizure of power risks foisting 54 million people of their rights to be seen, heard, and protected by the judicial instruments of the global community. The inaction on the part of the UN serves only to embolden the junta and those who would follow their example and establish unaccountable oppressive dictatorships. It is imperative that the UN Security Council convene forthwith to pass resolutions against the junta, to refer the junta to the International Criminal Court (ICC), to establish a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors across the borders, and to resolve to take immediate and firm tangible action to return power to the people and their elected leaders.
Similarly, we call on all free and democratic states on Earth to take action against the junta and their crimes. We need global sanctions against the generals, their families, their cronies, and their businesses. We need to cut off finances to the military and their allies; to freeze their assets and cut them out of the global market. We need a world-wide embargo on the sale of arms, ammunition, military vehicles, and fuel to Myanmar genocidal military. We need support to resettle and protect hundreds of thousands of IDPs and refugees who are not safe in Myanmar or in neighboring countries. We need food, we need housing, we need COVID vaccines, we need supports for freedom fighters and defenders of democracy. We need to ensure that what aid is being given to Myanmar is being given to those who need it, and not to the military and their agencies who will withhold and weaponize aid to punish our people, selling off the donations to raise money for more atrocities. It is within the power and capacity of individual states to help us turn the tide against the genocidal military. To bring justice for the highest crimes dating back decades, and to finally establish in Myanmar a progressive, democratic, peaceful, and free state; a true member of and friend to the international community. This is in the best interest of the people of Myanmar, of the nations and institutions of the world, of justice, and of humanity itself. We implore you, do not waste the great power you have to help a people in need, and serve the cause of freedom and federal democracy. Do not turn your back on us. Think of Ko Jimmy, Phyo Zeya Thaw, Hla Myo Aung, and Ko Aung Thura Zaw. Think of tens of thousands of young Myanmar men and women dead, dying, wounded, caged, starving, or grieving who fought and who will fight for the victory of democracy. In your hands are the keys to their salvation and deliverance.
Union Minister of the Ministry of International Cooperation
Spokesperson of the National Unity Government of Myanmar
Former Myanmar Special Envoy to the United Nations