The International Science Council (ISC) has been monitoring developments in Myanmar since the military coup that began on February 1, 2021. We have grave concerns about the widespread human rights violations conducted by Myanmar’s military and police in recent weeks, including violent actions against peaceful protestors at higher education institutions, in which university students and faculty have exercised their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. The use of lethal force has resulted in more than four hundred deaths, including first-year medical student Khant Nyar Hein, who was shot during protests. Meanwhile, police have detained or arrested more than two thousand people, including numerous members of the higher education community.
The military has also attacked and taken over various university campuses, rendering ongoing research and teaching activities impossible. These actions indicate a flagrant disregard for both human rights and the value of Myanmar’s higher education institutions, and are indicative of an intention to compromise institutional autonomy and academic freedom.
Beyond the distressing loss of life and deprivation of human rights, the ISC is deeply concerned about the future of Myanmar’s scientific community. The ISC upholds the principles of free and responsible practice of science as being fundamental to scientific advancement and human and environmental wellbeing. Given the recent progress in higher education development in Myanmar, and the history of political actions that have violated basic principles of scientific freedom, the ISC adds its voice to those expressing deep concern about the new threat to scientists across the country.
The ongoing actions by Myanmar’s military and police forces pose serious risks to individual researchers, but they also hamper scientific progress, innovation, and Myanmar’s standing in the global scientific community. Scientific capability and human capital take many years to accumulate, but can be lost very quickly, and are difficult to replace. It is therefore particularly relevant that the ISC, as the global voice for science, lends its strongest support to efforts to defend and secure fundamental scientific freedoms in Myanmar.
The Principle of Freedom and Responsibility in Science is embedded in the Council’s Statutes, as fundamental to scientific advancement and human and environmental wellbeing. The Council’s Committee for Freedom and Responsibility in Science (CFRS) oversees this commitment and is the guardian of this work.