Myanmar: Military authorities using multitude of laws to repress civil society


ARTICLE 19 made this statement during the oral update of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Myanmar at the 49th Session of the Human Rights Council.

We thank the High Commissioner for her strong report on the coup and its aftermath in Myanmar. We share her dismay that the Myanmar military has killed at least 1,500 individuals, arrested and detained over 10,000 individuals, and has continued to repress the people of Myanmar.

We welcome the High Commissioner’s focus on the multitude of laws introduced since the coup that curtail human rights and allow for the arbitrary arrest, detention, and surveillance of those critical of the military regime.

On 13 January 2022, the military circulated a newly revised draft of their draconian cyber security bill. This latest draft contains most of the restrictive provisions of the February 2021 draft law, but adds measures that would further violate international law—such as outlawing virtual private networks (VPNs) and controlling access to social media networks. The bill further grants overbroad powers to the Ministry of Defence to censor expression online and undermine data protection. The bill would allow the military to seize evidence and conduct surveillance without court-issued warrants or other procedural protections.

On 3 March 2022, the Ministry of Transport and Communications utilised section 77 of the Telecommunications Law to cut off internet access to all of the Sagaing Region. Severe clashes between the military and members of the People’s Defense Force had been occurring in Sagaing every day. The internet shutdown prevented the free flow of information and allowed the military to conceal international crimes.

We urge the Myanmar military authorities to implement the High Commissioner’s recommendation to immediately release all those detained, prosecuted and/or sentenced for exercising their right to freedom of expression, and to repeal all laws that have facilitated this onslaught on civil society.

We also call on all the international community to take heed of the High Commissioner’s recommendations and “do everything within its power to support the people of Myanmar and turn this human rights catastrophe into an opportunity.”