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A Public Letter from Sydney Peace Prize laureates to Foreign Affairs Minister, Marise Payne: Urging Australian Government to support Myanmar through their crisis

24 March 2021


Minister for Foreign Affairs
Parliament House


Dear Minister,

We, the undersigned, are Laureates of the Sydney Peace Prize, which is awarded by the Sydney Peace Foundation, a Foundation of the University of Sydney, in partnership with the City of Sydney.

We are deeply alarmed by the recent events in Myanmar, which have been called “crimes against humanity” by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Tom Andrews. While the February 1 coup has captured the attention of the international community, the actions of Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, have been a threat to international peace and security for a long time.

In response to peaceful protests, the military has committed acts of murder, enforced disappearance, persecution, torture, and imprisonment, in violation of fundamental rules of international law. These crimes, Andrews has noted, are “widespread,” “systematic,” and “coordinated.” They also mirror the actions that the military has taken against ethnic minority groups in Myanmar for years, including alleged genocide against the Rohingya and war crimes and crimes against humanity against other ethnic and religious minorities in Kachin and Shan States.

Given Australia’s influence in the region, you have a unique opportunity to promote peace and human rights by immediately increasing the scope of sanctions on the organisers of the coup and ensuing crimes against humanity, cancelling Australia’s defence cooperation program with Myanmar, rejecting an illegal regime, and supporting the return of the democratically elected Government of Myanmar. The military leadership behind this coup should be investigated under international law for allegations of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against the Rohingya population of Myanmar and war crimes and crimes against humanity against other ethnic and religious minorities in Kachin and Shan States.

The coup undermines the decades-long work on building peace and democracy through national elections and the peaceful transfer of power. When Andrews addressed the Human Rights Council on March 11th, 2021, he recommended that multilateral sanctions should be imposed on both senior junta leaders and their major sources of revenue including military-owned and controlled enterprises.

Consistent with the Special Rapporteur’s recommendations, we call on the Government of Australia to introduce targeted sanctions against the military leaders, and their business interests. Sanctions should be targeted at the following people who played a significant role in the coup. This list reinforces individual sanctions issued by the United States, and entities that were annexed to the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar’s reports.



  • Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar military forces, Sr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing;
  • Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Myanmar military forces, Vice-Sr. Gen. Soe Win;
  • First Vice President and retired Lieutenant General, Myint Swe;
  • Lieutenant General Sein Win;
  • Lieutenant General Soe Htut;
  • Lieutenant General Ye Aung;
  • General Mya Tun Oo (Minister of Defense);
  • Admiral Tin Aung San (Minister for Transport and Communications);
  • Lieutenant General Ye Win Oo (Joint Secretary of the SAC); and
  • Lieutenant General Aung Lin Dwe (Secretary of the SAC).

State Entities:


  • Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise;
  • Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited;
  • Myanmar Economic Corporation;
  • Myanmar Ruby Enterprise;
  • Myanmar Imperial Jade Co., LTD.; and
  • Cancri (Gems and Jewellery) Co., LTD.

 The Government of Australia’s sanctions on these individuals and entities should include:


  • Freezing private investments and business assets.
  • Divestment from any relationship with military controlled or linked businesses and organisations, including state-controlled enterprises.
  • A strengthened commitment to an arms embargo and encouraging other countries in the region to do the same.
  • A travel and visa ban.


Adopting targeted sanctions against these military leaders and their business interests demonstrates Australia’s commitment to human rights and justice for the people of Myanmar. Australia should also adopt targeted sanctions legislation to address human rights violations, similar to the United States’ Global Magnitsky Act 2016.

We additionally call on the Government of Australia to support the release of politicians and activists detained during the coup, to protect the rights of citizens to protest peacefully, and support international justice efforts through the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.  We urge Australia to support those who were democratically elected in November but never permitted to take office, who now comprise a shadow government, the Committee for Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH).


Yours Sincerely,

Tracey Spicer AM (Sydney Peace Prize Laureate 2019)

Professor Joseph Stiglitz (Sydney Peace Prize Laureate 2018)

Naomi Klein (Sydney Peace Prize Laureate 2016)

George Gittoes AM (Sydney Peace Prize Laureate 2015)

Sekai Holland (Sydney Peace Prize Laureate 2012)

John Pilger (Sydney Peace Prize Laureate 2009)

Arundhati Roy (Sydney Peace Prize Laureate 2004 )