Conflicts & War

Myanmar junta yet to fulfill commitments a year after agreement

By Gaspar Ruiz-Canela

Bangkok, Apr 24 (EFE).- Sunday marks a year since the Myanmar military junta agreed to end violence and open dialog in the country in a meeting with Southeast Asian leaders but the coupmakers have continued their policy of repression against the pro-democracy opposition and ethnic minorities.

The agreement between the head of the military junta, Min Aung Hlaing, and other leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. (ASEAN) to advance dialog and peace in Myanmar was agreed on Apr. 24, 2021 at a meeting in Jakarta.

Min Aung Hlaing, who seized power on Feb. 1, 2021, in a coup, appeared to withdraw from the agreement a few days later when he said maintaining law and order was a bigger priority than the “suggestions” of ASEAN leaders.

The five points include an end to violence against civilians, a dialog between all parties to reach a peaceful solution, the appointment of an Asean mediator and his visit to Myanmar to facilitate dialog and humanitarian assistance by the regional bloc.

However, the Myanmar security forces continue to brutally repress the civil opposition, with a total of 1,700 dead and more than 10,000 detained since the coup.

Clashes with ethnic guerrillas and newly formed civilian militia have also intensified.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has said that the Myanmar army has committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, including arbitrary arrests, torture, killing of civilians, burning of villages and extrajudicial executions.

In recent days, several organizations including Human Rights Watch (HRW), Amnesty International (AI) and hundreds of nonprofits in Myanmar as well as other Southeast Asian countries have urged ASEAN to accept the failure of the consensus and adopt tougher measures against the Myanmar generals.

“In this year, Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing has totally failed to implement any of the Five Point Consensus. Given this failure, it is time for ASEAN to move on to sanctioning him for the continued suffering he is inflicting on the people of Myanmar and his blatant disregard for his regional partners,” the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) nonprofit said in an open letter to ASEAN leaders on Sunday.

Members of the regional bloc include Cambodia, Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam, as well as Myanmar.

APHR proposed that ASEAN suspend Myanmar’s membership in the bloc and impose travel bans for Min Aung Hlaing and other members of his administration in the region as well as targeted sanctions against the leaders of the coup, as other countries and the European Union have done.

The NGO, made up of current and former lawmakers from the region, also suggested that ASEAN officially meets the National Unity Government of Myanmar, which includes pro-democracy politicians and activists, and ethnic rebel groups.

The NGO also urged ASEAN to “thoroughly re-consider the role and appointment mechanism of the Special Envoy to Myanmar” and distribute humanitarian aid through “Myanmar’s local community-based and civil society organizations, as well as relevant international agencies.”

“We also urge neighboring countries, particularly ASEAN member, Thailand, to allow those fleeing persecution and violence to cross its borders, to seek asylum and receive humanitarian aid,” it added.

An estimated 50,000 people have fled Myanmar since the military coup and many are finding it difficult to cross the border and have even been turned away by countries such as Thailand.

In a statement on Friday, HRW said that “the five-point consensus, meanwhile, has become a pretext for governments such as the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, and European Union member states to delay real action under the guise of waiting for ASEAN leadership.”

“Myanmar’s junta has spent the past year committing atrocities in utter disregard for its commitments to ASEAN,” Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said.

HRW added that the junta’s refusal to comply with the agreement has exposed fractures within ASEAN, with some countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, that have been critical of the junta and others such as Cambodia with a more conciliatory attitude towards the Myanmar military.

Although the Myanmar leaders are being excluded from the ASEAN summits, the nonprofit asked the bloc to “signal its support for a UN Security Council resolution instituting a global arms embargo,” refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court, and impose targeted sanctions on junta leadership and military-owned companies.

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