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Open Society Foundations Call for Return to Democracy in Myanmar

On the second anniversary of the military coup in Myanmar of February 1, 2021, the Open Society Foundations are calling on the international community to step up pressure on Myanmar’s military rulers to bring about a rapid and peaceful return to civilian rule.

In particular, Open Society is urging Indonesia to draw on its own experience of transitioning from decades under military rule to democracy in the late 1990s to help negotiate a political resolution in Myanmar. As the new Chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Indonesia is uniquely placed to lead a diplomatic response in 2023 and encourage other leaders in the region to take meaningful action. 

This must include making it clear to the ruling State Administration Council junta that a planned military-run election in August will in no way legitimize its illegal rule—given the exclusion and continued imprisonment of the civilian leaders overwhelmingly endorsed in the November 2020 general election, including Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint of the National League for Democracy.

Open Society notes that it has previously urged Myanmar’s regional and international partners:

  • To impose a full arms embargo on the Myanmar armed forces—against the background of human rights and humanitarian law abuses including repeated attacks on civilians in ethnic minority areas; arbitrary arrests and executions; and the suppression of peaceful protests
  • To expand sanctions targeting senior military leaders
  • To recognize the civilian National Unity Government, formed by elected lawmakers in exile in April 2021, as the legitimate representative of Myanmar
  • To support the work of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar established by the UN Human Rights Council in September 2018 and other efforts to ensure accountability for abuses
  • To increase support for the delivery of much-needed humanitarian aid to all areas of Myanmar

Open Society began supporting Myanmar’s democracy movement in exile in the 1990s and established a presence in the country in 2017 after the transition to civilian rule. Before the 2021 military coup, Open Society Myanmar worked with government and civil society groups on issues that included: expanding inclusive education and access to health care; supporting drug policy reform; protecting the rights of ethnic and religious minorities; and supporting democratic institutions.

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