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“The Warning Signs Were All There”: UUSC Condemns Military Coup in Burma, Calls for International Solidarity with Detained Activists

For Immediate Release: February 1, 2021

Media Contact:
Michael Givens
Associate Director of Strategic Communications
Unitarian Universalist Service Committee
Phone: +1-857-540-0617
Email: mgivens@uusc.org

Cambridge, MAIn the early hours of Monday, February 1, the Burmese military perpetrated a coup against the country’s elected government, arbitrarily detaining the civilian leader of the country and a growing list of human rights activists, religious and civil society leaders, and public officials.

UUSC’s Vice President and Chief Program Officer, Rachel Gore Freed, issued the following statement in response:

“We strongly condemn the Burmese military’s efforts to overthrow the elected civilian government based on completely bogus and unsubstantiated claims of ‘electoral fraud.’ In reality, the military-aligned Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) had every advantage in the last election. They lost for the simple reason that they failed to garner enough votes. The fact that military leaders are unhappy with this outcome is not a reason to topple the civilian government and stage a coup.

While the events of the last 24 hours are horrifying, they are far from surprising. All the warning signs were there. In just the past few years, the Burmese military has committed a genocide against the Rohingya people and atrocities against the country’s other ethnic minorities. Meanwhile, Burma’s government as a whole—including its civilian and military leaders—have been complicit in creating apartheid conditions and systematically disenfranchising the Rohingya people.

All of these events show that Burma’s vaunted ‘democratic transition’ has been a sham. The military never ceded meaningful power or accepted real checks on their authority. Now that an election has not gone their way, the mask has come off. U.S. officials who promoted the false narrative of Burma’s ‘democratization,’ even as a genocide was unfolding, deserve part of the blame for these events; as do those U.S. politicians whose own attempts to overturn a lawful election in this country have emboldened anti-democratic forces around the world.

These events must serve as a wake-up call for the new U.S. administration and the 117th Congress. It is time to shift course from propping up Burma’s flawed pseudo-democratic experiment and invest in the grassroots human rights leaders who are making real change—while supporting their efforts to fight for meaningful justice and accountability for the genocide at both the grassroots and international levels. This is a pivotal moment; the United States must not once again find itself on the wrong side of history.”

To learn more about the coup in Burma, please see this joint statement from UUSC partner Progressive Voice. Also, at 10:30 pm (EST) this evening, Progressive Voice, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, Forum Asia, the Initiative for International Dialogue and fellow UUSC partner ALTSEAN-BURMA, will co-host a press conference on the coup.


The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) is a nonprofit, nonsectarian organization advancing human rights together with an international community of grassroots partners and advocates.