A public statement from scholars in Finland regarding the military coup d’etat in Myanmar/Burma

Recently 50 scholars and activists based in Finland responded to the pressing situation in Myanmar with a joint statement. Amongst them are several researchers from the Finnish Society for Development Research.

Civil society, scholars and governments around the world have been called upon to denounce the coup d’etat in Myanmar/Burma, demonstrate solidarity and offer support. Thus far there hasn’t been any coordinated reaction from the Finnish scholarly community. This is why the undersigned scholars and activists wanted to send out a statement that includes a message of solidarity to those resisting the coup in Myanmar as well as a call for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs as well as the Finnish Government and the international community more broadly to condemn the coup very unambiguously and take rigorous, comprehensive actions for safeguarding democracy and human rights in Myanmar.

You can read the statement here below.

Original pdf can be found here: https://bit.ly/3apEnos

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February 15th, 2021

Public statement on the military coup d’etat in Myanmar/Burma and call for a rigorous response from the Finnish government

We, the undersigned scholars and activists based in Finland,stand in solidarity with the peoples of Myanmar/Burma to condemn the military coup on 1 February 2021, and with all those who currently risk their lives trying to bring the country back to the path of democratisation. We urge the Finnish government, the EU, and the international community to do the same.

We align with the statement of Fingo (February 4th, 2021), an umbrella organisation of 300 organisations in Finland, and call for the Government of Finland to establish a comprehensive response that strongly condemns the coup clearly positioning itself to only recognize the elected government. We also urge the Finnish government and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs to push the EU to call on the Myanmar military to immediately return power to the democratic institutions of the country, to unconditionally release all who have been detained, and to respect people’s right to protest peacefully. We thus join Fingo’s call for Finland to push the EU and the broader international community to safeguard democracy, human rights and civic space in Myanmar.

We have read with concern a recent commentary published by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA​) (February 9th, 2021). We agree with its call for targeted sanctions. But we strongly disagree with its suggestion at the end of the statement saying “in light of the US-China rivalry, dialogue and pragmatic engagement with Myanmar’s military regime may need to be part of the strategic bargaining in order for the West to have an impact on future developments in Myanmar.” This line of reasoning, particularly at this historical juncture, may not only add legitimacy to the illegitimate seizure of power by the Myanmar military but it also risks signalling a disregard to the repeated calls by Myanmar civil society upon the international community “to support existing civil society actions on the ground, as well as instituting targeted sanctions against the military, military enterprises and their crony partners.” (​Nang Zun Moe in ​​Progressive Voice (PV)​, February 5th, 2021).

Considerations of Eurocentric and interest driven engagements with the military regime are highly problematic, especially at this moment when hundreds of thousands of people are taking the streets everyday and risking their lives for the cause of peace and democracy, actively fighting for the future of their country under a democratically-elected civilian government. The current civil disobedience movement is immensely diverse – spanning from students, factory and mine workers to doctors, lawyers, artists, monks, part of the public police, and civil servants amongst many others. We salute and stand in deep solidarity with these brave civilian initiatives in resisting the military coup. We urge the international community to put all its efforts into supporting the civilian initiatives in all ways possible. This includes condemning condescending, eurocentric lines of reasoning and educating ourselves by listening to the demands made on the ground. All possible dialogue with the illegitimate military officers who led the power grab should be strictly limited to focus on how to restore democracy.

The signed scholars and activists thus call on the Finnish Government and the international community for an unambiguous and forceful condemnation of the coup. Most immediately the international community should do everything to make the Myanmar military (and police) respect people’s right to protest and not use violence against people in the streets. We also call for carefully planned, targeted sanctions that encompass the military leadership and all military-owned,-controlled or –linked companies and enterprises. Sanctions that negatively impact ordinary people more than the military would be unacceptable. Importantly, Finland should also push all EU members to effectively execute the arms embargo, including related technology transfer. A comprehensive response from Finnish government should also include continuation of support to Myanmar/Burma that is conflict-sensitive, humanrights-based, supportive of civil society and not in anyways beneficial to the military. It is crucial that the assistance is truly guided and where necessary, reoriented by the advice and perspectives of communities on the ground now and in the future. All actions should be planned in alignment with the calls of citizen initiatives on the ground.

Signed by

Johanna Götz, Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki
Mira Käkönen, Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki
Marjaana Jauhola, Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki
Eija Ranta, globaali kehitystutkimus, Helsingin yliopisto
Tiina Seppälä, International Relations, University of Lapland
Bonn Juego, University of Jyväskylä
Barry Gills, Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki
Paola Minoia, Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki
Tuomas Tammisto, Social & Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki
Fernando Oliveira Di Prinzio, Social Anthropology, Tampere University
Heikki Wilenius, Social & Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki
Christopher Chagnon, Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki
Mari Valdur, Social & Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki
Henri Onodera, Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki
Noora Vähäkari, University of Turku
Tuija Veintie, Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki
Ville-Veikko Hirvelä, New Wind Association
Kukka Ranta, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Lapland
Sanna Komi, Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki
Florencia Quesada, World Cultures, University of Helsinki
Gutu Wayessa, Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki
Samuli Lähteenaho, Social & Cultural Anthropology, University of Helsinki
Kai Vaara, New Wind Association
Tove Selin, Finnish Asiatic Society
Marketta Vuola, Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki
Usman Ashraf, Global development studies, university of Helsinki
Anna Heikkinen, Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki
Ratih Adiputri, Political Science, University of Jyväskylä
Jyrki Luukkanen, University of Turku
Ullamaija Kivikuru, University of Helsinki
Kaarle Nordenstreng, Tampere University
Jyrki Käkönen, Tampere University
Élise Féron, Tampere University
Johanna Hohenthal, Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki
Martta Kaskinen, Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki
Tarita Memonen, Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki
Tuomo Melasuo, TAPRI, Tampere University
Juhani Koponen, Global Development Studies, University of Helsink
Saila-Maria Saaristo, Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki
Ilona Steiler, Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki
Anja Nygren, Global Development Studies, University of Helsinki
Anu Lounela, University of helsinki
Ella Alin, Sociology, University of Helsinki
Marja-Liisa Trux, vapaa tutkija, Helsinki
Heidi Härkönen, University of Helsinki
Linda Annala, Hanken School of Economics
Esin Duzel, Independent Scholar, Helsinki
Johanna Kivimäki, University of Helsinki
Marianna Vivitsou, Faculty of Educational Sciences, University of Helsinki