Myanmar’s civilian National Unity Government (NUG) has asked 12 international organizations to apologize for signing an open letter that appeared to legtimize the junta.
The Human Rights Watch (HRW) letter, was also apparently signed by Save the Children, Amnesty International and other organizations, ahead of the United Nations Transforming Education Summit in New York addressed junta chief Min Aung Hlaing as the “Honorable Prime Minister of the Government of Myanmar”.
The letter mentioned the right to education. The regime, however, has killed more than 140 children and carries out raids, attacks and airstrikes on schools and arrests children and uses wanted activists’ children as hostages.
World Vision International, Plan International, World Organization for Early Childhood Education, Malala Fund, KidsRights, Global Campaign for Education, Defense for Children International, Campaña Latinoamericana por el Derecho a la Educación and Avazz also signed the letter.
The letter referred to the junta’s foreign minister Wanna Maung Lwin as “HE minister of foreign affairs” and Kyaw Zeya as “ambassador extraordinary to France and permanent delegate to UNESCO”.
The letter spread on social media on Friday, sparking outrage with comments calling it “backstabbing” and “shameless.” HRW on Saturday tweeted its deep regret for the mistake.
HRW said the letter was unfortunately addressed to Min Aung Hlaing without the input of the New York-based organization’s staff working on Myanmar.
“This administrative error should not be construed to imply in any way that Human Rights Watch recognizes the junta as the legitimate government of Myanmar. Human Rights Watch apologizes for this error and formally withdraws the communication to Min Aung Hlaing,” it stated.
Save the Children and Amnesty International both said they had no knowledge of the letter addressing the junta chief and the junta members.
A NUG statement said: “The joint letter is supremely insulting to Myanmar’s people and damaging to the reputation of the 12 signatories.”
It acknowledged HRW’s apology but said, “this too falls woefully short”.
“The NUG expects the 12 signatory organizations to issue a fuller apology to the people of Myanmar that also recognizes the National Unity Government as the legitimate [government].”
The 12 organizations should urgently determine how the serious mistake occurred and introduce procedures to prevent future errors.
A total of 386 civil society organizations in Myanmar said they were outraged by the “gross mistake” and “misrepresentation” in the joint letter.
“This is an affront to the people of Myanmar who have sacrificed their lives,” the groups said in the open letter.
Min Aung Hlaing is not the “prime minister” and the junta is neither a legitimate government nor does it control several key functions of government, the groups stated.
“They must not be referred to and addressed as the representatives of the state of Myanmar,” the groups said, calling on the 12 organizations to withdraw the letter and make a formal apology.
The groups said the NUG is the only entity that can legitimately represent Myanmar at the UNESCO conference.