[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.


[Joint statement] Letter to the Telenor Group

12 August 2021

Please click here for full statement in PDF.

Gunn Wærsted
Chair of the Board
Telenor Group

cc: Sigve Brekke
President & CEO
Telenor Group

12 August 2021

Dear Mdm. Gunn Wærsted,

Our organizations are writing to express alarm regarding the announcement by Telenor Group to sell off their Myanmar business to M1 Group, and to strongly urge you to reconsider this decision and institute human rights safeguards.

In 2013, Telenor’s application for a telecommunications licence in Myanmar was considered risky as Myanmar was at an early stage in its democratic transition, which recent events have demonstrated was not irreversible.  Nevertheless, we observed that through the years since, Telenor’s operations within Myanmar strived to follow a responsible and human-rights centric approach as required under the UN Guiding Principles (UNGPs) on Business and Human Rights, the OECD Guidelines for Responsible Business Conduct by Multinational Enterprises, and Telenor’s various other commitments in Norway, Myanmar and globally. 

Telenor Myanmar thereby gained the trust of our organisations and other civil society due to its transparency and engagement within the country, something which is reflected in the open letter by over 460 civil society organisations sent on 14 July 2021. These stakeholders recognise that Telenor has always sought to exercise ‘leverage to prevent or mitigate adverse impacts’ within the constraints posed by the Myanmar regulatory framework, as required by the UNGPs.

We recognise that since the coup, Telenor, like other companies, has come under extreme pressure from the military to take further steps which undermine its responsibility to respect human rights. We realise that you face many challenges, not least protecting the rights of your employees and customers, in addition to commercial and operational challenges.  However, we note that many of these challenges are not unique to Myanmar, and that Telenor continues to operate in other challenging markets such as Pakistan and Bangladesh.

We were therefore surprised and dismayed to learn that Telenor has taken a rapid decision to leave Myanmar, and to sell to the M1 Group. We note that Telenor has done this without seeking the views of the civil society stakeholders with whom it previously significantly engaged on responsible business, including some of our undersigned organisations. Furthermore, we see no evidence that Telenor has undertaken the ‘credible assessment of potential adverse human rights impacts of disengagement’ from Myanmar, required under the UNGPs.  This appears to be a hurried ‘disposal’ rather than a responsible exit.

We note that Telenor Myanmar is currently the subject of a complaint accepted by the Norwegian National Contact Point (NCP) related to possible misuse by the Tatmadaw of the network tower in Alethankyaw. Companies have a responsibility under the UN Guiding Principles, ‘where they have caused or contributed to adverse impacts’, to ‘provide for or cooperate in their remediation through legitimate processes’.  If Telenor exits Myanmar it should continue to cooperate fully with this NCP process. Furthermore, as the withdrawal itself may cause or contribute to new human rights harms, the potential for these should first be identified through the ‘credible human rights impact assessment’ mentioned above, and this should include consideration both of how to avoid any adverse impacts and how to provide for remedy should they nonetheless occur, even if Telenor no longer has an in-country presence. 

These concerns were raised in a recent second complaint submitted to the NCP against the company by the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO) on behalf of 474 Myanmar-based civil society organizations. The complaint alleged that Telenor had ‘failed to conduct appropriate risk-based due diligence’, ‘failed to seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts potentially arising from the sale of its Myanmar operations’, ‘failed to meaningfully engage with relevant stakeholders’ and ‘not been transparent in its decision to disengage’. 

Our organisations are of the view that, notwithstanding our major concerns about Myanmar’s regulatory framework for telecommunications and its current application, it might still be more positive from a human rights perspective for Telenor to stay in the market, rather than sell to a buyer such as the M1 Group. We have several serious concerns about M1 Group’s acquisition of your licence, infrastructure, employees, and customers –  including their data – which are detailed below. 

We see no evidence that M1 Group intends to respect human rights.

We note that the M1 Group website does not make any reference to human rights and that M1 is not even a signatory to the most basic international standard for investment companies and private equity, the UN Principles for Responsible Investment. Nor is it a member of the UN Global Compact.  M1 Group, therefore, appears to be an investor that has not expressed even basic commitments to international human rights standards.

M1 Group does not share the commitment to transparency and stakeholder engagement which was an essential part of Telenor’s contribution to the Myanmar telecommunications market, and also does not have the experience or expertise to manage the serious and complex human rights challenges of operating in Myanmar and fulfil its responsibility to respect human rights. We are also concerned to hear from our international partners and read reports of M1 Group’s operations in other telecommunications markets.

Furthermore, through its investment in Irrawaddy Green Towers (IGT),  M1 Group is associated with military businesses which were identified in the August 2019 report of the UN’s Independent Fact-Finding Mission. This analysed the Myanmar military’s economic interests which are alleged to have enabled the most serious international crimes, including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. These allegations are currently before the world’s highest courts – the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice. IGT is included in the 2019 report by virtue of its willingness to have a commercial relationship with MyTel, the operator which is part-owned by the military’s Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC). MEC has, since the coup, been widely sanctioned. 

M1 Group’s operations in other markets do not bode well for how they may operate in Myanmar if they took over from Telenor. M1 Group was co-founded by Najib Mikati – a former Lebanese Prime Minister and recently re-appointed as Prime Minister-delegate –  and his brother Taha Mikati. The oligarch Mikati family have not only been accused of corruption within Lebanon but have a record of entering and exploiting authoritarian markets for profits. The Mikati family’s Investcom conglomerate entered the Syrian market in 2001 soon after Bashar al-Assad took power, to operate one of two cell phone networks in Syria, MTN Syria, and has since complied with government orders’ including filtering and blocking users’ telecommunications particularly during protests to interfere with their ability to coordinate and organize. Following the sale of its Syrian outfit to a South African multinational telecommunications company, MTN Group, M1 Group remains one of the largest shareholders of MTN Group. Investcom also reportedly entered the Sudanese market in 2005, amidst continuing atrocities amounting to genocide in Darfur, and had partnered with a Yemeni businessperson with close ties to former Yemeni dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh. In 2019, Najib Mikati was charged with corruption and illicit enrichment in Lebanon. Earlier this year, the public prosecutor overseeing the case was removed in what the International Commission of Jurists termed an ‘attack on an already enfeebled judiciary’, in line with a ‘long history of utter subordination to the ruling political class in Lebanon’ – a class of which the Mikati family is part.

We note that in 2013, M1 Group bid for an operator’s licence in partnership with MTN and Amara Communications. Amara is owned by U Ne Aung who is a Politically Exposed Person (PEP) by virtue of his (deceased) father, a former General and Minister. His brother, Moe Aung, the current Commander in Chief of the Navy is a close collaborator of Senior-General Min Aung Hlaing. We would like to know what information the team conducting the sale and the Telenor Board sought or received about the actual or potential involvement of these PEPs, or other PEPs and sanctioned individuals, in the transaction.  

We are particularly concerned that Telenor’s Board may not have taken into account the risk that by deciding to embark on this sale, opportunities will open up for military-connected individuals or entities on current sanctions lists to acquire a stake, as has occurred with other divestments in Myanmar or to benefit financially, whether as a broker or as an undeclared beneficial owner. We see this risk as significantly heightened since M1 is an investment company with a questionable long-term commitment to Myanmar, rather than an established telecommunications operator, and therefore more likely to be looking to make an onward sale.  In December 2020, M1 Group, together with co-owner BluStone Management, entered an agreement to sell Irrawaddy Green Towers to another private equity player, CVC. This, together with Telenor’s highly discounted price, leads us to suspect that M1 Group may intend to resell all or part of the asset to other buyers who we believe would not pass Telenor’s due diligence. 

Taking all of this into account, we are both surprised and concerned that a company of Telenor’s standing would contemplate selling their Myanmar business, including their employees and customers, in this risky manner, to a company with no apparent commitment to transparency or human rights.

We, therefore, call upon you to cancel or pause the sale of Telenor Myanmar to M1 Global and to conduct human rights due diligence that is transparent and constitutes the ‘credible impact assessment’ called for by the UNGPs. This should obtain the views of a variety of stakeholders, particularly civil society organisations, human rights defenders and individual users who will be affected if Telenor departs. The due diligence should look at the impacts of potential buyers as well as the option and impact of remaining if satisfactory buyers cannot be identified. The results of such an assessment should be made public and accessible. Any due diligence assessment already conducted by Telenor before this recent decision to sell should also be made accessible to relevant stakeholders in a detailed manner as soon as possible. It should include consideration of how Telenor intends to redress any human rights harms linked to its past activities, or newly imposed by the company’s exit.

We further urge that Myanmar human rights defenders, activists and civil society groups be directly spoken with and consulted by the highest levels of Telenor’s decision-making members. It seems evident that in the most recent sudden decision to sell, this consultation had not been prioritised.

As you will have noted from the comments of various Myanmar stakeholders following your announcement, Telenor is a highly regarded investor in Myanmar.  However, the circumstances of this potential sale risk leaving a bitter taste, and negatively affecting Telenor’s local and global reputation as a responsible business. It will also dent the confidence of the Myanmar people that the Norwegian government, your major shareholder, is committed to the best interests of the Myanmar people. 

We remain open to consultation and eager to contribute to your efforts to respect human rights in Myanmar and beyond. 

Yours sincerely,

The undersigned organizations

  1. Access Now
  2. Advocacy Initiative for Development (AID)
  3. Africa Freedom of Information Center 
  4. ALTSEAN-Burma (Alternative ASEAN Network on Burma)
  5. Change Tanzania Movement
  6. Civil Rights Defenders
  7. Digital Woman Uganda
  8. Free Expression Myanmar
  9. Global Voices
  10. Global Witness
  11. Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF)
  12. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
  13. Justice for Myanmar
  14. Kijiji Yeetu
  15. Last Mile4D
  16. Manushya Foundation
  17. MARUAH
  18. Media Matters for Democracy
  19. Norwegian Forum for Development and Environment (ForUM) 
  20. Open MIC (Open Media & Information Companies Initiative) 
  21. Open Net Association
  22. Organization of the Justice Campaign
  23. Paradigm Initiative
  24. PEN America
  25. Progressive Voice
  26. Ranking Digital Rights
  27. Rudi International
  28. Social Media Exchange (SMEX)
  29. Software Freedom Law Center, India (SFLC.IN)
  30. Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFENet)
  31. Securing Organizations with Automated Policymaking (SOAP)
  32. The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO)
  33. The Peace Centre
  34. Transparency International Czech Republic
  35. Transparency International Norway
  36. Ubunteam
  37. U.S. Campaign for Burma
  38. WITNESS
  39. Yemeni Organization for Development and Exchange of Technology (YODET) 
  40. Zaina Foundation

[Repost] APHR – Appointment of ASEAN envoy to Myanmar must prompt immediate action, MPs say

7 August 2021

https://aseanmp.org/2021/08/04/appointment-of-asean-envoy-to-myanmar-must-prompt-immediate-action-mps-say/

Aug 4, 2021 – ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

JAKARTA – Southeast Asian parliamentarians have responded warily to the decision by ASEAN to appoint Brunei’s Foreign Affairs Minister II Erywan Yusof as its special envoy to Myanmar, urging him to take immediate and decisive action to put an end to the military’s bloodshed and chaos. 

“While we are satisfied that ASEAN has, at last, appointed a special envoy, there are legitimate concerns with the appointment of Erywan Yusof. Let us not forget that the Minister, as the representative of ASEAN’s Chair, has led the bloc’s ineffective response so far, including a delegation to Myanmar in June, during which he not only met solely with the junta, but also pushed their narrative that elections could take place,” said Kasit Piromya, a Board Member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and former Thai Member of Parliament (MP). “It is also unnerving that a Minister of an absolute monarchy that does not abide by international human rights standards has been tasked with convincing a murderous army to respect these principles.” 

This week, Erywan Yusof, Brunei’s second minister for foreign affairs, was appointed as ASEAN’s special envoy to Myanmar, following several months of negotiations between the bloc and the Myanmar military junta. The role was agreed at the ASEAN Leaders’ Summit in Jakarta in April, during which Member States reached a Five-Point Consensus, which has seen little progress until this point. 

“Until now, ASEAN’s response to the ongoing crisis in Myanmar has been deeply, deeply disappointing. With this appointment ASEAN cannot hide behind the excuse of not having a Special Envoy anymore,” Piromya said. “The bloc must ensure that the new Envoy finally gives the bloc the leadership we have so desperately craved in this crisis. Not only do the Myanmar people depend on it, but so does ASEAN’s entire reputation.” 

“The Envoy must act promptly, and show skillful diplomacy to ensure he does not become a pawn in the junta’s game to pretend it is taking action, all while maintaining its grip on power and subjecting the people more and more to its oppressive rule. He cannot play into Min Aung Hlaing’s game of using ASEAN to gain international and regional legitimacy anymore, but instead must secure solutions that help the people of Myanmar reach the democracy they have spent the last six months showing the world they so desperately crave,” Piromya said. 

The new Special Envoy for Myanmar must change ASEAN’s course of action, and  immediately step up action to end violence; secure the release of all political prisoners in the country; immediately meet with Myanmar’s National Unity Government and Ethnic Armed Organization; as well as work with the UN Special Envoy and its international partners to provide much-needed humanitarian assistance to Myanmar, not through its AHA Centre nor the junta, but through independent humanitarian organisations already operating in the country, as well as ethnic health organizations and local health providers, said APHR. 


[Repost] Myanmar Six Months After The Coup: ’We Only Have Ourselves’

2 August 2021

https://www.reportingasean.net/myanmar-six-months-after-the-coup-we-only-have-ourselves/

YANGON/BANGKOK | 29 Jul 2021

You pause before picking up a call from an unknown phone number. You’re ready to change plans in a second, if explosions occur in your area or soldiers show up. When going out, you may delete the Facebook app from your phone, lest you get stopped by soldiers wanting to check your posts. If you have COVID-19 symptoms, you look for an antigen test kit before trying to get an RT-PCR test or go to hospital.

These are among the survival skills that many people in Myanmar are using these days, six months after the February military coup. Hypervigilance has become routine.

Anxiety is never too far away as they make their way through layer upon layer of crises – the political crisis sparked by the military’s ouster of the elected government on Feb 1, the economy’s breakdown amid rising poverty, and a third COVID-19 wave surging in the wake of a collapsed system for delivering public services.

“I always feel insecure wherever I go,” said one resident of Yangon, the commercial capital of this country of over 57 million people. “I dare not bring my phone because I’m scared when I hear that security forces are checking mobile phones, and they also take money. So I never take much money if I go out.”

“I’m also insecure at home because they (soldiers) can check any time and they take whatever they want,” she added.

“There are lots of things to care about when you go outside, not only the COVID third wave but also explosions, people in uniform,” agreed one artist. “Our daily lives are different compared to before, due to COVID and the coup – double trouble – in terms of work security, safety, unemployment.”

Locals say the price of some goods and medicines, food items have risen by 20 to 40%. Worries abound about the latest harvest and future ones, because farmers (80% are small farmers) depend on credit from the state and fertiliser prices have shot up by 50%. Fuel prices are reported to have nearly doubled since February.

Power outages are worrisome amid a pandemic that sees daily new cases at 4,000-5,000 and over 300 deaths daily. Cases are under-reported as testing is severely limited, and infectivity is very high: 37% of COVID-19 tests were positive, as of Jul 22. Only Mexico’s 38.1% is higher in the One World in Data global tracker.

Cash is a precious commodity, one that can be received after shelling out 6-10% commission fees to brokers and mobile apps. “Wasting our money in these horrible times” is how the owner of a small business puts it. Access to cash has become better in some cases, but long queues are common and limits on cash withdrawals remain.

Even as the pandemic rages – and has affected its ranks – Myanmar’s military has continued to arrest anti-coup protesters, those who have stayed with the civil disobedience movement that started right after the coup.

“Now I’m afraid of going outside and I dare not pick up calls from unknown people,” said one schoolteacher who continues to stay away from her work with the government. “I’m also afraid to answer calls because some officers in our department threaten and force (us) to go back to work. And I’m always afraid of the informers and spies of the military.”

For many, there is too much of the military’s presence in their lives, but too little, or none, of public governance in this catastrophe unfolding in their midst.“It is estimated that up to 90% of national government activity has ceased,” the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said in its June report on the economic fallout and food insecurity in Myanmar since the coup.

As they have learned to do under past periods of military rule, Myanmar’s people are turning to one another, forming networks of their own, to survive.

Communities have been arranging donation drives for those who have lost relatives to the pandemic or are taking care of the sick, and others who are in self-isolation. Volunteers are still driving patients to hospitals, which have run out of beds. Online groups help track supplies of medical oxygen amid the ongoing scarcity. Many share what income they make with the jobless.

DISASTER OF EPIC PROPORTIONS

But still tougher times lie ahead in what Myanmar historian Thant Myint-U calls an “economic and humanitarian disaster of epic proportions”. The economy is expected to contract by 18% in 2021, said the World Bank’s ‘Myanmar Economic Monitor’ in late July. At nearly double the 10% contraction projected in March, it is Southeast Asia’s largest such plunge. 

“As the third wave of COVID-19 outbreak struck and strict containment measures were reimposed, an even worse scenario could unfold, with poverty levels in 2022 rising to well over twice as high as they were in 2019 (22.4% in 2018/19), wiping out gains of over a decade of poverty reduction progress,” the World Bank said.

The same report said one million jobs could be lost in 2021 out of a labour force of some 25 million – and this figure excludes workers in the huge informal economy. Already, the International Labour Organization says, 3.1 million full-time equivalent jobs have been lost due to COVID-19 and containment measures.

Migrant workers and those overseas are finding it harder, and often more expensive, to send money into Myanmar, through informal channels. More than 10 million people cite remittances as an income source, says the WFP, and 40% of remittances come from abroad.

Half of households have reported cutting consumption, including food, the World Bank said. Up to 3.4 million more people are at risk of food insecurity, on top of the 2.8 million who were not getting enough food before the coup, the WFP said in its June situation report

Many pin hopes on the National Unity Government that was formed on Apr 16. With 16 ministers apart from a prime minister, the government-in-exile reports on meetings with foreign diplomats and parliamentarians, sends officials to speak at webinars. But it is struggling to gain international recognition and faces challenges around having its decisions actually carried out inside the country.

As COVID-19 took a turn for the worse in June, its health ministry opened a telemedicine channel on Facebook and formed a national committee with the health organizations of several ethnic groups, but a mechanism for a pandemic response is unclear.

“I would like to appeal to all the people of Myanmar to continue the fight bravely with the spirit of victory in mind,” said Mahn Wann Khaing Thann, NUG prime minister. “When we succeed, our government will repay and work for the establishment of a Federal Democratic Union that all people aspire to.”

THE PRESENT MOMENT

But it is the here and now that people live in – and like the COVID-19 pandemic, an end to the crisis is not within sight.

“We only have ourselves,” said a Yangon resident. “We have to take care, as much as we can, of food, medicine, oxygen, and other basic needs. The authorities can’t do anything. Unfortunately, it’s like we are waiting for the day we die.”

“I can’t sleep well at night,” confided another local. “Most of my family members are jobless right now. Even though I save money, not spending spend much money, I’m afraid that one day, I won’t be able to make it.”

(*This feature is part of the ‘Lens Southeast Asia’ series of Reporting ASEAN, supported by the Sasakawa Peace Foundation.)

(END/Reporting ASEAN/Edited by J Son)


[Repost] Latest update on Myanmar by ANFREL

27 July 2021

[Repost] ANFREL Monthly Brief on Countries Under Restrictive Management – Series #3

6 July 2021

Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar & Hong Kong

June 2021

Introduction
ANFREL started publishing the monthly brief on the countries under a restrictive environment in April 2021 to provide an insight into the human rights and democracy situation in these countries. As usual, they will cover issues related to elections and civil and political rights in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Myanmar and Hong Kong.

To read the full brief, please click here.


Statement in Solidarity for the Restoration of Democracy and Justice in Myanmar

20 April 2021

MARUAH wishes to congratulate ASEAN for organising an ASEAN Special Summit Meeting on the 24th of April 2021 to discuss Myanmar and find a collective path to restore peace, non-violence, and democracy in the country. We state that this Special Summit is crucially important to the people in Myanmar and for ASEAN as a regional body of 10 member states. We also appreciate Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan for the discussions he had with ASEAN member states of Brunei, Indonesia[1] and Malaysia which have also been working towards this special Summit. We note that call made by ASEAN’s foreign ministers for a halt to the escalating violence and dialogue to end the crisis.[2]

But we need to underscore the importance of having a legitimate representation from Myanmar at the Special Summit meeting, as it is also part of ASEAN’s responsibility to the people in Myanmar and in ASEAN. We are of the view that this dialogue effort to negotiate for an agreement towards non-violence, peace and democracy would be derailed if Myanmar’s junta leader, General Min Aung Hlaing, is the sole representative for Myanmar. We note with concern the announcement made by Thailand that General Min Aung Hlaing is set to attend the ASEAN Special Summit meeting.[3]

The Tatmadaw’s leader, General Min Aung Hlaing, is the key person, responsible for the: coup; denunciation of last year’s legitimate elections where the National League for Democracy (NLD) had won decisively and fairly; ongoing violent assaults on people, continued air raids targeting ethnic groups and the severe restrictions and censorship imposed on the people. The net result is one that shows Myanmar’s people fleeing to other countries, an internal humanitarian crisis, of more than 700 civilians, including 50 children,[4] having been killed by Myanmar’s security forces since February 1st and the possibility of a civil war as 10 of Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups [5]have recently thrown their support behind the movement for democracy, peace and free and fair elections.

Hence, we state that recognising Gen Min Aung Hlaing as Myanmar’s political leader to be the sole representative at the Special Summit, would be a travesty to the rule of law, the principles spelt out in the ASEAN Charter and a gross injustice, a betrayal, to the people in Myanmar, many of whom are willing to die for their country.

We ask instead that the Special Summit asks for representatives from: the National Unity Government (NUG) that has been formed;[6] the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) which is a body formed of elected lawmakers from Myanmar’s ousted civilian government; and the tatmawdaw. This way it also anchors ASEAN as the neutral mediator focused on key political players being at the dialogues. It is also an opportunity for ASEAN to establish itself as the regional body that endorses peace, harmony and democracy in the region as also endorsed in the preamble of the 1976 Treaty of the Amity And Cooperation in Southeast Asia.[7]

In summary, we urge that this ASEAN Special Summit does:

  • include representatives from Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG) and Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH)
  • explicitly state that General Min Aung Hlaing is attending as a representative of the Tatmadaw, not as leader of Myanmar
  • make a clear stand that ASEAN is functioning by the Responsibility to Protect principles and its principles for peace, democracy, and rule of law.

Statement issued by MARUAH Secretariat
20th April 2021


[1] https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/vivian-balakrishnan-meets-indonesian-counterpart-retno-marsudi-in-jakarta

[2] https://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/asean-coup-03022021134500.html

[3] https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/myanmars-junta-leader-confirmed-to-attend-asean-meeting-thai-foreign-minister

[4] https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/myanmar-activists-vow-week-of-protests-during-new-year-holidays

[5] https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/se-asia/myanmar-rebel-groups-back-anti-coup-protests-condemn-junta-crackdown

[6] https://www.irrawaddy.com/news/burma/whos-myanmars-national-unity-government.html

[7] “CONVINCED that the settlement of differences or disputes between their countries should be regulated by rational, effective and sufficiently flexible procedures, avoiding negative attitudes which might endanger or hinder cooperation; BELIEVING in the need for cooperation with all peace-loving nations, both within and outside Southeast Asia, in the furtherance of world peace, stability and harmony;”. https://asean.org/treaty-amity-cooperation-southeast-asia-indonesia-24-february-1976/


[Repost] ANFREL’s Monthly Brief on Countries under Restrictive Environment

13 April 2021

ANFREL will start publishing this brief to provide an insight into the human rights and democracy situation in the countries facing democratic regression. In this series, they have covered Cambodia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Hong Kong. Please click on the image below to access the full brief.