[Amnesty] Myanmar: Military onslaught in eastern states amounts to collective punishment

13 June 2022

May 31, 2022 – https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2022/05/myanmar-military-onslaught-in-eastern-states-amounts-to-collective-punishment/

  • Post-coup military assault in Kayin and Kayah States includes war crimes and likely crimes against humanity
  • More than 150,000 displaced, with entire villages emptied and burned
  • Amnesty International interviewed almost 100 people and visited border area

Myanmar’s military has been systematically committing widespread atrocities in recent months, including unlawfully killing, arbitrarily detaining and forcibly displacing civilians in two eastern states, Amnesty International said today in a new report.

The report, “Bullets rained from the sky”: War crimes and displacement in eastern Myanmar, found that Myanmar’s military has subjected Karen and Karenni civilians to collective punishment via widespread aerial and ground attacks, arbitrary detentions that often result in torture or extrajudicial executions, and the systematic looting and burning of villages.

The violence in Kayin and Kayah States reignited in the wake of last year’s military coup and escalated from December 2021 to March 2022, killing hundreds of civilians and displacing more than 150,000 people.

“The world’s attention may have moved away from Myanmar since last year’s coup, but civilians continue to pay a high price. The military’s ongoing assault on civilians in eastern Myanmar has been widespread and systematic, likely amounting to crimes against humanity,” said Rawya Rageh, Senior Crisis Adviser at Amnesty International.

“Alarm bells should be ringing: the ongoing killing, looting and burning bear all the hallmarks of the military’s signature tactic of collective punishment, which it has repeatedly used against ethnic minorities across the country.”

Post-coup surge in violence

For decades, ethnic armed organizations in Myanmar, including in Kayin and Kayah States, have been engaged in struggles for greater rights and autonomy. Fragile ceasefires in place in both states since 2012 broke down after the February 2021 coup, and new armed groups have emerged. In its operations, the military has relentlessly attacked civilians.

Some attacks appear to have directly targeted civilians as a form of collective punishment against those perceived to support an armed group or the wider post-coup uprising. In other cases, the military has fired indiscriminately into civilian areas where there are also military targets. Direct attacks on civilians, collective punishment, and indiscriminate attacks that kill or injure civilians violate international humanitarian law and constitute war crimes.

Attacks on a civilian population must be widespread or systematic to amount to crimes against humanity; in Kayin and Kayah States, they are both, for crimes including murder, torture, forcible transfer, and persecution on ethnic grounds.

Unlawful strikes

In its ongoing operations, Myanmar’s military has repeatedly fired explosive weapons with wide-area effects into populated civilian areas. Dozens of witnesses told Amnesty International about barrages that lasted days at a time. The organization documented 24 attacks by artillery or mortars between December 2021 and March 2022 that killed or injured civilians or that caused destruction to civilian homes, schools, health facilities, churches, and monasteries.

For example, on 5 March 2022, as families were at dinner, the military shelled Ka Law Day village, Hpapun Township, Kayin State, killing seven people, including a woman who was eight months pregnant. A close family member of four of the people who were killed said he had to sit in his house all night looking at the bodies, for fear of being injured by further shelling, before burying them in the morning.

Many people described the military’s use of fighter jets and attack helicopters as particularly terrifying. Witnesses described not being able to sleep at night out of fear of air strikes, or fleeing to seek shelter in bunkers and caves.

Amnesty International documented eight air strikes on villages and an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in eastern Myanmar in the first three months of 2022. The attacks, which killed nine civilians and injured at least nine more, destroyed civilian homes and religious buildings. In almost all documented attacks, only civilians appear to have been present.

In one case, at around 6pm on 23 February 2022, a fighter jet fired on Dung Ka Mee village, Demoso Township, Kayah State, killing two civilian men and injuring several others. Amnesty International interviewed two witnesses and a relative of one of the deceased as well as an aid worker who responded after the attack. They said there was no fighting that evening and that the nearest armed group base was a mile or more away.

A local resident, a 46-year-old farmer who witnessed the attack, said the military aircraft made three passes, firing guns and a rocket:

“When that fighter jet was flying toward us in a nose-down position, I was numb… When they fired the rocket, I got myself together and realized I had to run [to a bunker]… We were shocked to see the dust and debris come towards us… There is a two-story building… The family lives upstairs and the downstairs is a mobile phone store. This building collapsed and it was also on fire.”

Another witness, a 40-year-old farmer, saw the remains of a neighbour’s body:

“We couldn’t even put them in a coffin, we put them in a plastic bag and buried them. People had to pick up the body pieces and put them in a bag.” In another incident, the military carried out an air strike on Ree Khee Bu IDP camp at around 1am on 17 January 2022, killing a man in his 50s as well as 15- and 12-year-old sisters.

Extrajudicial executions

The report documents how Myanmar’s military carried out arbitrary detentions of civilians on the basis of their ethnicity or because they were suspected of supporting the anti-coup movement. Often, detainees were tortured, forcibly disappeared or extrajudicially executed.

In one of many cases where soldiers extrajudicially executed civilians who ventured out from displacement sites to collect food or belongings, three farmers from San Pya 6 Mile village in Kayah State went missing in January 2022. Their decomposed bodies were found in a pit latrine around two weeks later.

The brother of one of the victims said he identified the men by their clothes and the state of their teeth. Soldiers fired on him and others as they tried to retrieve the bodies; they could only return to finish the burial a month later. 

In a massacre that prompted rare international condemnation, soldiers near Mo So village in Kayah State’s Hpruso Township reportedly stopped at least 35 women, men and children in multiple vehicles on 24 December 2021, and then proceeded to kill them and burn their bodies. Doctors who examined the bodies reportedly said many of the victims had been tied up and gagged, bearing wounds suggesting they were shot or stabbed.

Amnesty International maintains that the incident must be investigated as a case of extrajudicial executions. Such killings in armed conflict constitute war crimes.

Witnesses also described Myanmar’s military shooting at civilians, including those attempting to flee across a river along the border with Thailand.

Looting and burning

Following a pattern from past military operations, soldiers have systematically looted and burned large sections of villages in Kayin and Kayah States. Witnesses from six villages reported having items including jewellery, cash, vehicles and livestock stolen, before homes and other buildings were burned.

Four men who fled Wari Suplai village, on the border of Shan and Kayah States, said they watched from nearby farmland as houses went up in flames after most villagers fled on 18 February 2022. They told Amnesty International that the burning went on for days, destroying well over two-thirds of the houses there.

“It’s not a house anymore. It’s all ashes — black and charcoal… It’s my life’s savings. It was destroyed within minutes,” said a 38-year-old farmer and father of two young children.

Amnesty International’s analysis of fire data and satellite imagery shows how villages were burned, some of them multiple times, in parts of Kayah State. The burning directly tracks military operations from village to village in February and March 2022.

A defector from the military’s 66th Light Infantry Division, who was involved in operations in Kayah State until October 2021, told Amnesty International that he witnessed soldiers looting and burning homes: “They don’t have any particular reason [for burning a specific house]. They just want to put the fear in the civilians that ‘This is what we’ll do if you support [the resistance fighters].’ And another thing is to stop the supply and logistics for the local resistance forces… [Soldiers] took everything they could [from a village] and then they burned the rest.”

The violence has caused the mass displacement of more than 150,000 people, including between a third and a half of Kayah State’s entire population. In some cases, entire villages have been emptied of their populations; at times, civilians have had to flee repeatedly in recent months.

Displaced people are enduring dire conditions amid food insecurity, scant health care — including for the conflict’s enormous psychosocial impact — and ongoing efforts by the military to obstruct humanitarian aid provision. Aid workers spoke of growing malnutrition and increasing difficulties in reaching displaced people due to the ongoing violence and military restrictions.

“Donors and humanitarian organizations must significantly scale up aid to civilians in eastern Myanmar, and the military must halt all restrictions on aid delivery,” said Matt Wells, Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Deputy Director – Thematic Issues.

“The military’s ongoing crimes against civilians in eastern Myanmar reflect decades-long patterns of abuse and flagrant impunity. The international community — including ASEAN and UN member states — must tackle this festering crisis now. The UN Security Council must impose a comprehensive arms embargo on Myanmar and refer the situation there to the International Criminal Court.”

Methodology

The report is based on research carried out in March and April 2022, including two weeks on the Thailand-Myanmar border. Amnesty International interviewed 99 people, including dozens of witnesses or survivors of attacks and three defectors from Myanmar’s military.

The organization also analysed more than 100 photographs and videos related to human rights violations — showing injuries, destruction and weapon use — in addition to satellite imagery, fire data, and open-source military aircraft flight data.


[CNN] Malaysia to abolish mandatory death penalty in move welcomed by rights campaigners

12 June 2022

By Heather Chen, CNN

Updated 0716 GMT (1516 HKT) June 10, 2022 – https://edition.cnn.com/2022/06/10/asia/malaysia-death-penalty-abolish-human-rights-intl-hnk/index.html

(CNN) Malaysia will abolish the mandatory death penalty, the government said Friday, in a move cautiously welcomed by rights groups as a rare progressive step on the issue for the region.

In a statement, Malaysian law minister Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar said mandatory death sentences for serious crimes would be replaced by “alternative punishments” at the discretion of the courts.

“This shows the government’s emphasis on ensuring that the rights of all parties are protected and guaranteed, reflecting the transparency of the country’s leadership in improving the criminal justice system,” he said.

Relevant laws will be amended, the statement said, adding that further research would be carried out on alternative sentences for a number of crimes that carry the death penalty, including drug offenses.

Like many of its neighbors in Southeast Asia, Malaysia has notoriously tough drug laws, including capital punishment for traffickers.

The country declared a moratorium on executions in 2018 but laws imposing the death penalty remained and courts were required to impose the mandatory death sentence on convicted drug traffickers. Terrorist acts, murder, and rape resulting in death also still warranted a mandatory death penalty.

Friday’s decision comes three years after human rights campaigners had criticized the government for making a U-turn on an earlier pledge to abolish capital punishment entirely.

Cautious welcome

The move Friday was welcomed by rights groups who said it was an “important step forward” for the country and wider region.

“Malaysia’s public pronouncement that it will do away with the mandatory death penalty is an important step forward — especially when one considers how trends on capital punishment are headed in precisely the opposite direction in neighboring countries like Singapore, Myanmar, and Vietnam,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch.

No executions were carried out in Malaysia throughout 2021, according to a recent Amnesty International report about global executions.

“As of 12 October [2021], 1,359 people were under sentence of death, including 850 with their death sentences being final and appealing for pardon and 925 convicted of drug-related offences,” the report said. Out of the 1,359 sentenced to death, 526 were foreigners, it noted.

However, executions have been on the rise in other parts of Southeast Asia like Myanmar, Vietnam and Singapore, which recently executed an intellectually disabled prisoner from Malaysia despite global condemnation.

This week, Myanmar announced scheduled executions for two men accused of “being involved in terrorist acts” in what would mark the first judicial executions in the country in decades since the military coup.

Although he welcomed Malaysia’s move as a sign of progress, Human Rights Watch’s Robertson said the government needed to follow through on its statement with action.

“We need to see Malaysia pass the actual legislative amendments to put this pledge into effect because we have been down this road before, with successive Malaysian governments promising much on human rights but ultimately delivering very little,” he said.

“The Malaysian government … knows the international community will take this as a sign of the country progressing forward but hopefully, they really mean it this time and move quickly to do away with the mandatory death penalty once and for all.”


[Malay Mail] Malaysia’s abolishment of death penalty not done deal yet until Parliament passes law, Human Rights Watch rep says

12 June 2022

By John Bunyan

Friday, 10 Jun 2022 4:35 PM MYT – https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2022/06/10/malaysias-abolishment-of-death-penalty-not-done-deal-yet-until-parliament-passes-law-human-rights-watch-says/11669

KUALA LUMPUR, June 10 — A Human Rights Watch (HRW) representative Phil Robertson has insisted today that any abolishment of the mandatory death penalty in Malaysia needs to be accompanied by a legislative amendment in the Parliament before the pledge can be put into effect.

The deputy director of the human rights watchdog’s Asia division said Malaysians must instead to take a wait-and-see approach as Putrajaya has historically only delivered little of its promises despite promising so much on human rights.

“Malaysia’s public pronouncement that it will do away with the mandatory death penalty is an important step forward, especially when one considers how trends on capital punishment are headed in precisely the opposite direction in neighbouring countries like Singapore, Myanmar, and Vietnam.

“But before everyone starts cheering, we need to see Malaysia pass the actual legislative amendments to put this pledge into effect because we have been down this road before, with successive Malaysian governments promising much on human rights but ultimately delivering very little,” he said in a statement.

Earlier, Malaysia’s de facto law minister Datuk Seri Wan Junaidi Tuanku Jaafar announced that the government has agreed to abolish the mandatory death penalty and substitute sentences at the discretion of the court.

Wan Junaidi also confirmed that the Cabinet has agreed that further scrutiny and study be carried out on the proposed substitute sentence for 11 offences carrying the mandatory death penalty, one offence under section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 [Act 234] 2 and 22 other offences which carry the death penalty but at the discretion of the court.

This further study will be carried out in collaboration with the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC) Legal Affairs Division, the Prime Minister’s Department and other interested ministries and departments.

Robertson described the latest announcement on the death penalty by the Malaysian government as merely to show the international community that the country is progressing forward.

“The Malaysian government loves to float trial balloons about human rights initiatives because it knows the international community has a short attention span and will take this as a sign of Malaysia progressing forward.

“But the reality is often more complicated, so we’ve learned to be wary. Hopefully, Malaysia will do the right thing by immediately implementing this pledge to do away with the mandatory death penalty,” he said.

Malaysia has had a moratorium on all executions since 2018 while awaiting recommendations from the committee.

In August 2019, the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration formed the Special Committee to Review Alternative Punishments to the Mandatory Death Penalty to examine alternatives to the mandatory death sentence.

However, the PH government collapsed in February 2020 before the Bill for the abolition of the death penalty could be tabled in the March meeting of Parliament that year.


[APHR] Southeast Asian MPs alarmed by planned executions of four Myanmar political prisoners

12 June 2022

JAKARTA, 6 June 2022 – Parliamentarians from Southeast Asia are alarmed by the announcement by the Myanmar junta that it will carry out the death sentences handed down to four political prisoners, including prominent former member of Parliament, Ko Phyo Zeya Thaw, and well-known pro-democracy activist, Kyaw Min Yu, better known as “Ko Jimmy”, both convicted on charges of terrorism.

These death sentences would be the first known judicial executions in the country since 1988, according to Amnesty International, which considers Myanmar as “Abolitionist in Practice”, as it retains the death penalty in law, but has not applied it for decades. Ever since the coup in February last year that ousted the democratically elected government, Myanmar has seen a drastic surge in the number of people sentenced to death with at least 86 people, including minors who were under 18 at the time.

“ASEAN and the international community must use every means at their disposal to prevent these executions from taking place. If they are carried out they will be nothing less than cold blooded political assassination. These executions would further contribute to prevent the already remote possibility of a sustainable political dialogue, as prescribed over one year ago in the Five-Point Consensus agreed by ASEAN member states and Min Aung Hlaing’s junta, which has not made any effort whatsoever in that direction,” said Charles Santiago, Member of Parliament from Malaysia, and APHR Chairperson. 

The Myanmar military has killed at least 1,887 protesters since the coup, but it is attempting to give a veneer of legality to the execution of the four men. Yet it is abundantly clear that, as in dozens of sentences handed by military tribunals, there was no respect for fair trial rights.

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) unreservedly supports the recent United Nations Secretary General’s statement reminding Myanmar’s military that the death sentences are a blatant violation of the right to life, liberty and security of person, as per Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. We also join him in emphasizing that the Declaration also enshrines the principles of equality before the law, the presumption of innocence, the right to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, and all of the guarantees necessary for a person’s defense.

“This announcement should be viewed in the context of the increasingly brazen atrocities being committed by the Myanmar military in order to consolidate its power in the face of widespread popular resistance. The junta is killing, torturing and arbitrarily arresting Myanmar people with an impunity that owes a great deal to the failure of the international community to hold it accountable for its crimes,” said Santiago.

APHR calls on each and every member state of ASEAN, as well as its Dialogue Partners, to urgently demand an unconditional and immediate stay of execution and release of the four detainees by the self-declared State Administration Council. They must individually and collectively make a stand before it is too late, not only for these four, but for all those currently arbitrarily detained who should be immediately and unconditionally released.

Click here to read this statement on APHR’s website.

For more information please contact info@aseanmp.org.


[APHR] Southeast Asian MPs call Indonesia to give a voice to the Global South at the G20

11 June 2022

JAKARTA, 9 June 2022 – Parliamentarians from Southeast Asia have called Indonesia, the only G20 member in Southeast Asia and its President this year, to “give voice to the aspirations of the Global South” and bring to the table issues that particularly affect the region, but also the world in general, at the group’s Summit which will be held in November this year in Jakarta.

In a position paper published today, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) has urged Indonesia to advocate at the Summit for stronger and more creative global responses to the devastation caused by conflicts like that of Myanmar, a substantial increase in global financial support for a sustainable energy transition, and to find ways to reduce the impact of the world’s digital transformation on human rights and democracy.

We, Parliamentarians from Southeast Asia, are urging the Indonesian Government to use its preeminent position to promote at the G20 a form of collective and inclusive collaboration among nations to address challenges that, having a specific resonance to our region, affect humanity as a whole,” said APHR in the Position Paper.

APHR suggests that new creative ways are necessary to prevent the human and economic costs of crises such as those devastating Myanmar, Ukraine, Yemen or Syria. As international organizations like the UN, or regional groups like ASEAN, have often failed to prevent atrocities, Indonesia should propose a new Working Group at the G20 to discuss responses from the largest economies in the world to those crises.

On the climate change front, it has become evident that current pledges from states to reduce carbon emissions will not be sufficient to slow climate change, and the necessity to transition to renewable sources of energy is more urgent than ever. APHR urges Indonesia to lead the G20 to agree to accelerate the phasing out from coal and fossil fuels, but it must also substantially increase global financial support for such a transition.

Lastly, and in face of the challenges posed by the spread online of disinformation campaigns, divisiveness and hate-speech, APHR urges the G20 to discuss and identify measures that can be adopted to regulate the digital marketplace along democratic lines, put an end to invasive use of people’s personal data, and hold online platforms accountable for their harmful business models.

Click here to read the position paper.

Click here to read this press release on APHR’s website.

For more information please contact info@aseanmp.org.


[ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights] Quotes: On ASEAN Envoy to Myanmar’s planned trip to the country next week

27 March 2022

Dear Members of the Press, 

Please see below quotes from Charles Santiago, APHR Chair and a Malaysian MP, on the planned visit to Myanmar by Prak Sokhonn, Cambodian Foreign Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and ASEAN Special Envoy on Myanmar, from 21 to 23 March 2022.

It is absolutely disgraceful that in a week when the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner has released such a damning first report on conditions in Myanmar since the coup, that the Cambodian government of Prime Minister Hun Sen is once again normalizing the illegal junta in Myanmar on multiple levels, having already invited a Myanmar military delegation to the country this week. Hun Sen and Min Aung Hlaing’s contempt for the collective will of ASEAN is seriously damaging the reputation of the bloc and the region.” 

“As ASEAN chair, it is in the Cambodian government’s best interests to strengthen its own, and ASEAN’s, credibility by remaining fully committed to the Five-Point Consensus. It should provide a roadmap to explain how it plans to progress the agreed action points. Instead, Prak Sokhonn’s visit, which comes without any conditions or demands on the junta to meet its obligations under the Five Point Consensus, is a betrayal of the collective decision of ASEAN, and the will of the Myanmar people. We all witnessed how PM Hun Sen’s similarly condition-free visit in January did nothing to deter, and possibly emboldened, the junta to undertake operations the very next day that may amount to crimes against humanity. Cambodia’s continued reckless departure from the ASEAN consensus puts more innocent Myanmar people’s lives at risk from this junta.”

“It is ridiculous that the ASEAN Special Envoy says his visit to Myanmar is aimed at “creating a favourable condition” to end the violence. It is way past time to stop holding hands with these accused war criminals. ASEAN and its Chair must demand the military junta cease all violence and attacks immediately against the people, in line with the five-point consensus agreed by the leaders of ASEAN Member States. Anything less risks giving the military council a licence to commit further crimes against humanity.”


[Amnesty International] Myanmar: World must act now to prevent another year of intolerable ‘death and misery’

6 February 2022

27 January 2022

If the international community continues to drag its feet on the grave human rights violations including lethal violence targeted at protestors that we have seen in Myanmar this past year, many more people will suffer and this human rights crisis could worsen, Amnesty International said today ahead of the one-year anniversary of the 1 February, 2021 coup.

“Enough is enough, the 55 million people of Myanmar cannot afford another year of wavering and sitting on the sidelines by many governments around the world. Concrete action aimed at holding the military accountable and preventing their access to weaponry used to commit widespread human rights abuses must be taken now or the shocking death and misery that have defined life in Myanmar since the coup is likely to persist,” said Ming Yu Hah, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Campaigns.

“As the anniversary of the coup draws near, the military has launched indiscriminate air strikes that have killed civilians in the southeast, blocked life-saving aid, and kept up a bloody campaign against activists and journalists, who have been detained and killed in custody. Too many governments continue turning a blind eye to all these atrocities, as they did following the gross violations of human rights against the Rohingya people. As a result, the military has been increasingly brazen, acting with impunity in its efforts to wipe out any resistance to its rule.

“The Myanmar people are desperate and have become disillusioned about help from the international community. But there are clear steps that need to be taken to prevent the Myanmar military from maintaining its dystopian campaign of terror and persecution. The UN Security Council must stop dragging its feet, and instead impose a global arms embargo and targeted sanctions against military leaders, and urgently refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.

“In addition, all local and foreign companies in business partnerships with the military or military-owned businesses need to responsibly disengage, cutting the flow of funds that the military uses to prop up its lethal operations.

“Closer to home, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must present a unified front on Myanmar and demand the military to immediately stop the violence against civilians. The ASEAN should also exert pressure on the military to stop blocking humanitarian access and expand on and implement with a clear timeline its five-point consensus adopted last year, which has proved a failure.

“The new year must bring new approaches to Myanmar, placing human rights for the people of Myanmar, accountability, and a zero tolerance to human rights violations and abuses at the forefront.”

Background:

Myanmar’s military seized power in a coup in the early hours of 1 February, 2021. Since then it has killed more than 1,400 people and arrested more than 11,000, with over 8,000 currently in detention, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. The shocking violence fits into a long history of well-documented crimes under international law against ethnic minorities in the country, including the Kachin, Shan and Rohingya.

The UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar has previously called for Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other senior officials to be investigated and prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

The former civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been sentenced to six years on bogus charges and faces more than 100 years if convicted on all the counts against her. Many of her closest allies, including President Win Myint, have also been convicted on similarly trumped-up charges.

Following the violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, some opponents of the military authorities have established the armed People’s Defense Force, which claims to have killed hundreds of soldiers through shootings, bombs and ambushes.

On top of the chaos that has gripped major cities and towns across the country in the aftermath of the coup, economic and food insecurity as well as pandemic-related challenges have caused millions to face hunger. Hundreds of thousands have also been internally displaced while thousands have fled across the border to Thailand.


[Reuters] ASEAN should rethink non-interference policy amid Myanmar crisis, Malaysia FM says

24 October 2021

Published October 21, 2021 – https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/asean-should-rethink-non-interference-policy-amid-myanmar-crisis-malaysia-fm-2021-10-21/

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 21 (Reuters) – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should rethink its decades-long policy of non-interference in the affairs of member states, amid a worsening human rights crisis in Myanmar, Malaysia’s top diplomat said on Thursday.

The 10-member bloc on Friday made an unprecedented move to exclude the leader of Myanmar’s junta from an upcoming regional summit, over a lack of progress on a peace plan it agreed to with ASEAN in April. A non-political figure from Myanmar will be invited instead.

The decision – which sources said was pushed by Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and the Philippines – was a rare bold step for ASEAN, which has traditionally favoured consensus and engagement over criticism of member nations. read more

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said ASEAN should do some “soul-searching” on its non-interference policy, given deteriorating conditions in Myanmar, where more than 1,000 civilians have been killed in a crackdown on strikes and demonstrations since a Feb. 1 coup.

“I reminded the meeting (on Friday) that ASEAN is about 10 member states. As much as the issue in Myanmar is local and national, it has an impact on the region, and we should also recognise the concerns of the other nine member states,” he told a virtual dialogue on human rights in Myanmar.

“And I also stated the fact that we cannot use the principle of non-interference as a shield to avoid issues being addressed,” he said, in a rare critique by an ASEAN foreign minister of one of the most valued parts of the bloc’s code.

Saifuddin said non-interference had contributed to ASEAN’s inability to make effective decisions quickly, and suggested a move towards a new policy of constructive engagement or non-indifference.

A junta spokesman has blamed ASEAN’s decision on “foreign intervention”, including by the United States and European Union. read more

Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Martin Petty


[APHR] Quotes and Open Letter on Myanmar’s presence at the ASEAN Summit

14 October 2021

Please see below quotes from Charles Santiago, Malaysian MP and Chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR). 

“ASEAN’s credibility depends on its ability to act decisively. Denying the illegal Myanmar junta a place at the ASEAN Leaders Summit is a small step towards reclaiming the bloc’s desired centrality as a key regional player that can bring peace and stability.”

“Myanmar’s junta has shown utter contempt for ASEAN and its own people. Since it agreed to the Five-Point Consensus there have been more than 3,530 attacks either on civilians by the military or armed clashes that failed to protect civilians – that’s an 840% increase from the same period in 2020. Min Aung Hlaing and his gang of thugs are making fools of our governments.”

Open Letter to ASEAN Leaders


To: ASEAN Leaders

CC: ASEAN Dialogue Partners

13 October 2021

Re: Myanmar’s presence at the ASEAN Summit

Your Excellencies,  

We, the undersigned organisations, write to you to urge you not to extend an invitation to Myanmar’s military junta to the upcoming ASEAN Summit on 25 to 28 October because of the military’s blatant disregard for the Five Point Consensus agreed at the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting and continuing refusal to cooperate with ASEAN towards its implementation.

We welcome the remarks made by the Foreign Ministers of Indonesia and Malaysia who questioned whether the junta should be invited to the Summit and urge the other Member States to come to the same conclusion. 

ASEAN’s credibility depends on its ability to act decisively and bring an end to the Myanmar military junta’s relentless violence against the people of Myanmar. A lack of decisiveness and consequences for the military’s total contempt for the ASEAN’s leaders’ agreement risks undermining the bloc’s legitimacy as a key regional player that can bring peace and stability.

On 24 April 2021, the leaders of nine Member States and the Myanmar junta, represented by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, agreed on a consensus that included the “immediate cessation of violence”, constructive dialogue among all parties, the appointment of an ASEAN special envoy on Myanmar, humanitarian assistance to be delivered to the country, and for the Special Envoy and delegation to visit Myanmar to “meet with all parties concerned”. 

Myanmar’s junta has failed to respect this consensus on every single count.

Since the Myanmar junta agreed to immediately cease the violence on 25th April till the end of September there have been 3,534 attacks either on civilians by the military or armed clashes that failed to protect civilians – that’s an 840% increase from the same period in 2020 (376). Thousands have been forced to flee their homes in search of safety. Violent acts amounting to crimes against humanity have been documented. It is clear that junta leader Min Aung Hlaing will not stop in his attempts to crush the democratic opposition to his rule.

The military junta has also continually opposed any form of dialogue. Zaw Min Tun, the military’s spokesman, recently said that dialogue between the ASEAN Special Envoy and the State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, the National Unity Government and People’s Defence Forces could not take place because they have been declared by the junta as “illegal organizations”. The junta’s stalling tactics also contributed to the delay in announcing Brunei’s Foreign Affairs Minister II Erywan Yusof as ASEAN’s special envoy to Myanmar.

While we note aid commitments made to the AHA Centre and delivered through the Myanmar Red Cross, it is important to recall that the Myanmar military’s own actions are creating the current humanitarian crisis engulfing the country. According to the United Nations (UN), three million people require assistance. That number has tripled over the last eight months. In addition to that, there are now 20 million people living below the poverty line – nearly half the population. Yet, the military junta is weaponizing humanitarian aid; blocking the distribution of supplies, placing travel restrictions on humanitarian workers, hoarding and destroying aid, and attacking civilians, health and humanitarian aid workers. 

It is clear that Myanmar’s military has displayed a flagrant lack of respect for ASEAN, and in fact since the coup, it appears to have used the bloc to try to gain legitimacy while at the same time increasing its brutal reprisals against the people.

The UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also warned that the opportunity to prevent the Myanmar junta from entrenching its rule could be narrowing. He has called for unified regional and international action to prevent the crisis from becoming a large-scale conflict and multi-faceted “catastrophe” in Southeast Asia and beyond.

It is time for ASEAN to act decisively. This starts by denying the Myanmar junta the legitimacy it craves, and which has been rejected constantly by the people of Myanmar. The junta has refused to cooperate with regional and international neighbors, failed to stand by the commitments it has made, and exposed to the world not only its barbaric brutality but also an inability to deal with the deepening social and economic disaster currently taking place in the country, which includes the dereliction of public health services amid the global pandemic. 

Reiterating the remarks of Malaysia and Indonesia’s foreign ministers, a firm united response by the other Member States is required. The Myanmar junta’s actions must not be accepted as “business as usual.” They are endangering the stability, prosperity, peace and health of the region.

We therefore call on ASEAN leaders to deny the head of the Myanmar military junta a seat at the table and display to him that his callous disregard for the people, and his regional neighbors, does not come free of consequences. 

Sincerely, 

Signatories:

  1. A Lin Thitsar
  2. A Lin Yaung Pan Daing
  3. A Naga Alin
  4. Action Committee for Democracy Development
  5. All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress
  6. ALTSEAN Burma
  7. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
  8. Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
  9. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
  10. Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization
  11. Backpack Health Workers Team
  12. Burma Medical Association
  13. Burmese Women’s Union
  14. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  15. Democracy for Ethnic Minorities Organization
  16. Democracy, Peace and Women’s Organization – DPW
  17. Equality Myanmar
  18. FORUM-ASIA
  19. Freedom and Labor Action Group
  20. Future Light Center
  21. Future Thanlwin
  22. Generation Wave
  23. Human Rights Foundation of Monland
  24. Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
  25. Karen Environmental and Social Action Network (KESAN)
  26. Karen Human Rights Group
  27. Karen Peace Support Network
  28. Karen River Watch (KRW)
  29. Karen Women’s Organization
  30. Karenni Civil Society Network
  31. Karenni Human Rights Group
  32. Karenni National Women’s Organization
  33. Keng Tung Youth
  34. Let’s Help Each Other
  35. Metta Campaign Mandalay
  36. Myanmar Peace Bikers
  37. Myanmar People Alliance (Shan State)
  38. Network for Advocacy Action Tanintharyi Women Network
  39. Network for Human Rights Documentation – Burma (ND-Burma)
  40. Olive Organization
  41. Progressive Voice
  42. Save and Care Organization for Ethnic Women at Border Areas
  43. Save the Salween Network (SSN)
  44. Shan MATA
  45. Southern Youth Development Organization
  46. Spring Revolution Interfaith Network
  47. Synergy – Social Harmony Organization
  48. Tanintharyi MATA
  49. Thint Myat Lo Thu Myar
  50. Union of Karenni State Youth
  51. Women Advocacy Coalition – Myanmar
  52. Women’s League of Burma
    1. Burmese Women’s Union (BWU)
    2. Kachin Women’s Association-Thailand (KWAT)
    3. Karen Women’s Organization (KWO)
    4. Karenni National Women’s Organization (KNWO)
    5. Kayan Women’s Organization (KyWO)
    6. Kuki Women’s Human Rights Organization (KWHRO)
    7. Lahu Women’s Organization (LWO)
    8. Pa-O Women’s Union (PWU)
    9. Shan Women’s Action Network (SWAN)
    10. Ta’ang Women’s Organization (TWO)
    11. Tavoy Women’s Union (TWU)
    12. Women for Justice (WJ)

Click here to read on APHR’s website
Click here to download the pdf file

For more information, please contact info@aseanmp.org


[The Jakarta Post] ASEAN Summit without Myanmar’s SAC

11 October 2021

Published 11 October 2021 – https://www.thejakartapost.com/paper/2021/10/10/asean-summit-without-myanmars-sac.html

Yuyun Wahyuningrum

The writer is representative of Indonesia to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR).


The 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits are just about two weeks away from now. According to the ASEAN Charter, the summit is the supreme policy-making body and mechanism to address emergency situations affecting ASEAN. 

Among other issues concerning the strengthening of the ASEAN community and centrality, the member states will also discuss the political crisis in Myanmar and the progress in the implementation of the five-point consensus agreed upon by ASEAN leaders and the Myanmar junta leader.

In the ASEAN Community Council (ACC) meeting on Oct. 4, the foreign ministers hinted at the possibility of excluding Myanmar in the next summit. 

They expressed their disappointment with the lack of cooperation on the part of Myanmar’s State Administration Council (SAC) and its slow progress in implementing the five-point consensus. The matter will be further consulted with the nine ASEAN leaders in the next summit to guide how to move forward with the SAC. 

Suspending the right of a member state to participate in the ASEAN summit has not been a practice in ASEAN. However, in 2006, the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) – senior dignitaries who gave recommendations on the drafting of the ASEAN Charter – had suggested that ASEAN consider provisions to redress a member’s noncompliance to the objectives, principles and commitments under the Charter and ASEAN agreements. 

Such measures include temporary suspension of rights and privileges of membership, like withholding the right to participate in ASEAN activities, and from chairing ASEAN bodies and their meetings. 
Myanmar was once prevented from chairing ASEAN in 2006 due to the possibility of Western countries boycotting the ASEAN meetings in a show of protest against human rights violations in Myanmar. 

Skipping the role as a chair in ASEAN means Myanmar loses its strategic opportunities to build the country’s socioeconomic progress and democratic transition, to gain political legitimacy and to be considered a responsible member of the international community. 

Realizing the purpose of ASEAN requires collective efforts from all committed member states. ASEAN needs unity and to strengthen its membership capacity to address the changing geostrategic environment we are in now. An irresponsible member who undermines regional commitments and agreements will not take ASEAN anywhere. Surely, ASEAN has no time for this. 

Temporarily halting the participation of the SAC in the summit serves the interest of strengthening the ASEAN Community, but some member states may have different opinions and may create a situation where there is no consensus. 

Article 20 of the ASEAN Charter provides a provision that allows the ASEAN Summit to make a decision should consensus not be reached. One of the options is by applying a majority voting mechanism, as suggested by the EPG. 

Six months have passed since the ASEAN Leaders Meeting and we have continued to witness the escalation of violence with no sign it will end any time soon. 

The media have also reported that the security forces frequently used flash grenades, batons, rubber bullets and tear gas against protesters, which has resulted in many injuries The SAC aims to obtain a certain level of power and authoritative control over the population and jurisdiction by committing violence against civilians. 

In my capacity as a representative of Indonesia to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), I received reports on some of the tactics that have been used by the military. One of them is known locally as Pyat Ley Pyat (four cuts strategy). 

This strategy was initially applied in the 1960s by the military to fight the Communist Party of Burma and the Karen National Union, which involved restricting access to food, funds, intelligence and recruits, aiming to make the support base of armed resistance starve and turn civilians against resistance groups. 

Currently, the cutting includes foods, supplies, communication and recruits with the purpose of making the people and resistance group hungry, disconnected from the world, unable to mobilize, unheard, unrecognized and invisible. 

This strategy has been accompanied by internet and phone blackouts, water and electricity cuts and forced displacement. Furthermore, as reported by Save the Children in its press release on Oct. 4, more than 76,000 children in Myanmar have been forced to leave their homes since the coup on Feb. 1.

Women political prisoners reportedly experienced sexual violence and gendered harassment. Some women gave birth in the forest to save their lives and their babies. 

Another report mentioned that the military attacked healthcare workers, journalists and protesters. In some areas, people have been prevented from evacuating after the military attacks. 

I presented the reports in the AICHR meetings through the specific agenda concerning the region’s recent development on human rights as well as in the Interface Meeting between the ASEAN Minister Meeting and AICHR in September. 

I have often reached out to civic groups in Myanmar to listen to their grievances and organized a series of regional consultations together with AICHR Malaysia and Thailand as well as with national human rights institutions in the region. 

Nevertheless, ASEAN has been criticized by the public for being slow in its response and indecisive, which has contributed to the suffering of the people in Myanmar. 

It is no longer enough to demonstrate the non-recognition position to the SAC through symbolic expressions such as excluding the traditional mention of “we the ministers” at the beginning of the Joint Communique of the 54th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting to convey the message that the grouping did not recognize the representative of the SAC as the foreign minister of Myanmar. 

ASEAN member states have to take the right position and decision in the summit. ASEAN must do the right thing for the people in Myanmar and listen to the voices and concerns of the people in Myanmar demanding democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights. 

It is time for ASEAN to get firm and be on the right side of history.