The February 2021 military coup in Burma has undone much of the hard fought progress towards democracy achieved since 2011, said Erin Barclay, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor in recent Congressional testimony.
“The military regime has suspended many civil liberties under a prolonged state of emergency. ... The regime also introduced a range of new laws that unduly restrict freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly. The regime has impeded Internet access, including access to social media platforms, banned independent media outlets and imprisoned at least 42 journalists.”
The military junta has especially targeted women and girls, said Acting Assistant Secretary Barclay.
“The military junta has used gender based violence, including sexual violence, to terrorize women and girls for decades, and they have escalated this tactic since the 2021 coup. Survivors report a range of violence, including rape, gang rape, sexual assault, sexual harassment and ... human trafficking, the majority of which are committed by security forces, especially the military.”
According to the rights group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, nearly 4000 people have been killed by the military regime since the coup and more than 24,000 arrested, including deposed President Win Myint and state counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, stated Acting Assistant Secretary Barclay.
“We continue to call for their release as well as all of those unjustly detained in Burma. Many former detainees alleged torture and other ill treatment during their detention. And the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has found that at least 273 people have died in police or military custody since the coup.”
The United States is employing a comprehensive response that addresses both the immediate human rights challenges facing the people of Burma and the longer term goal of establishing genuine and inclusive multiparty democracy.
This includes expanding support to pro-democracy actors to develop atrocity prevention tools in response to the military regime's violence. The State Department is also strengthening the resilience of civil society and the pro-democracy movement so they can advance democratic governance in Burma. Since February 2021, the State Department has provided financial assistance to over 1000 human rights defenders and civil society advocates.
The United States remains committed to promoting justice and accountability for both past and ongoing human rights abuses in Burma.