Release detained Myanmar environmental & human rights defender NOW!

environmental defender Kyaw Min Htut, Myanmar Where is Kyaw Min Htut, environmental and human rights defender in Myanmar, being detained? (© EIA)

Environmental and human rights campaigner Kyaw Min Htut is one of many people facing threats from the military junta in Myanmar. He is currently detained by the military in an unknown facility. His life is at extreme risk. Please support our petition calling for the disclosure of his whereabouts and unconditional release.

Call to action

To: General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander in Chief and Lt-Gen Soe Htut, Home Affairs Minestry

“We demand the immediate and unconditional release of Kyaw Min Htut”

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Environmental and human rights campaigners in Myanmar face extreme dangers daily. Indigenous and rural communities face additional threats through land-grabbing and military conflict.

Kyaw Min Htut, a forest and human rights defender, was detained by the military on September 6, 2021. We do not know if Kyaw Min Htut is still alive – and we do not know his whereabouts. 

The dangers forest defenders face have been intensified by a military coup that took place on February 1, 2021. In response, a Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) grew to resist the military junta’s grab for power. Nonviolent forms of protests were employed. The response from the military and police has been brutal.

High-profile activists moved to support the movement and, to stay alive, had to leave their families and homes to go into hiding.

On February 25, 2021, Kyaw Min Htut was one of those forced to go into hiding. Kyaw Min Htut has been a champion of environment, human rights and democracy for decades.

On August 23, police had a warrant for his arrest and attempted a raid at his house but were unable to locate him. According to a local source, clear instructions were circulated to detain his family members until he was found. They were held as hostages. 

On August 31, 2021, his wife and two-year-old child both captured and detained by the military, together with his nephew Pa Pa Hlaing, on September 5, 2021. 

Kyaw Min Htut, his younger brother Kyaw Minn Aung and landlord U Min Min were then found and detained by the military on September 6, 2021. 

On September 12, his wife and child were released but are under watch by the authorities. 

We are calling for information on his welfare and for his unconditional release.

Please demand that General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander in Chief, and Lt. Gen. Soe Htut, the officer in charge of the Home Affairs ministry and responsible for his arrest and detention, orders the release of Kyaw Min Htut immediately and that his whereabouts are made known to his family.

Back­ground

Kyaw Min Htut is a father of three. He is 43 years old. He is an active member of the local community in Sagaing region. He has for years been engaged in protecting the forest. He is also a civil society representative for the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA), the Forest Law Governance and Trade (FLEGT) civil society network in Myanmar, and a civil society representative of the Myanmar Forest Certification Committee (MFCC). 

In the last twenty years, Myanmar has lost a forest area the size of Belgium. Teak wood is in particular demand for shipbuilding. The import of teak from Myanmar into the EU is prohibited. Nevertheless, illegal teak keeps entering the European market.

Environmental and human rights campaigners in Myanmar face extreme dangers daily. Indigenous and rural communities face additional threats through land-grabbing and military conflict. These dangers have been intensified by a military coup that took place on February 1, 2021 when democratically elected members of the country's ruling party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), were deposed by the Tatmadaw, Myanmar's military. In response, a Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) grew to resist the military junta’s grab for power. Non-violent forms of protests were employed, including labor strikes that included more than 400,000 civil servants from all sectors, and a military boycott campaign. 

The response from the military and police has been brutal. Civilians have been hunted down and detained, with at least 6,698 people to date held in prisons or interrogation centers around the country. Many young protesters have been killed by military forces using live ammunition. High-profile activists support the movement and, to stay alive, have had to leave their families and homes to go into hiding and work within a very dangerous space. 

On February 25, 2021, Kyaw Min Htut was one of those forced to go into hiding. On August 23, the police had a warrant for his arrest and attempted a raid at his house but were unable to locate him. According to a local source, clear instructions were circulated to detain his family members until he was found. On August 31, 2021, his wife and two-year-old child were relocated and both captured and detained by the military. Kyaw Min Htut, his younger brother and U Min Min, the landlord, were captured and detained by the military on September 6, 2021. On September 12, his wife and child were released but remain under watch by the authorities. 

Kyaw Min Htut has been a member of the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) and supporting pro-democracy activists to non-violently resist the illegal coup. He has been a champion of environment, human rights and democracy for decades. His activities to obtain accountability from all extractive industries in Myanmar has ranged from the local community to the international arena. He has always worked for what is right, despite the many risks to his life. He is the civil society representative of the Multi Stakeholder Group (MSG) of the Myanmar Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative. (MEITI). The Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA) is the civil society alliance formed from more than 400 organizations across the country to work with the MEITI process. Kyaw Min Htut is the representative of Sagaing for the MSG on behalf of MATA. 

Kyaw Min Htut was part of a diverse delegation that traveled to Europe from Myanmar to provide valuable technical information on the status of Myanmar’s forests and the people who rely on them. He has presented at the FLEGT Experts group that consisted at the time of 28 EU member states. He has also visited and provided information to the government of Norway.

Letter

To: General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander in Chief and Lt-Gen Soe Htut, Home Affairs Minestry

Ladies and Gentlemen,



I hereby call on you to release Kyaw Min Htut and to inform his family of his whereabouts immediately.

To date, there have been more than 6,698 people arrested, charged or sentenced under laws revised overnight that criminalize peaceful protests, enable violations of the right to privacy and support arbitrary arrests and detention.

I strongly condemn the lack of communication of the whereabouts and welfare of Kyaw Min Htut. There are grave concerns of the high risk of torture and risk to his life while under military custody under your control.

Kyaw Min Htut is a father of three. He is 43 years old. He is an active member of the local community in Sagaing region. He has for years been engaged in protecting the forest. He is also a civil society representative for the Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability (MATA), the Forest Law Governance and Trade (FLEGT) civil society network in Myanmar and a civil society representative of the Myanmar Forest Certification Committee (MFCC).

The violence and criminalization of innocent civilians in Myanmar ordered by you is against all international legal standards. Kyaw Min Htut and all those you have detained must be released immediately.

I demand that you:

Immediately and unconditionally release Kyaw Min Htut and all innocent environmental and human rights defenders in Myanmar. I demand that all charges are dropped against Kyaw Min Htut.
Stop all forms of harassment, use of arbitrary methods of arrest and torture against him and all innocent environmental and human rights defenders in Myanmar.

Yours faithfully,

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