Southeast Asian MPs demand concrete action on Myanmar

ASEAN must take urgent and immediate steps in response to damning UN report, say parliamentarians

UCA News reporter

Updated: March 17, 2022 08:19 AM GMT

Myanmar people line up to fill containers amid water shortages due to power outages in Yangon on March 14. (Photo: AFP)

Southeast Asian parliamentarians have called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to take urgent and immediate steps to alleviate the suffering of Myanmar's people.

Their appeal came in response to a report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the Myanmar military's systematic and widespread human rights violations and abuses, some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.

We're soon approaching one year since ASEAN agreed on the five-point consensus, a year in which the bloc's disastrous failure to make progress on these points has effectively given the Myanmar military license to commit what this UN report has concluded may amount to the gravest crimes against humanity, said Charles Santiago, the chair of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), in a statement on March 16.

APHR also condemned Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen's son for welcoming a Myanmar military delegation to Phnom Penh for the 19th ASEAN Military Intelligence Meet on the same day that the UN report was published

The parliamentarians said other ASEAN members must push Cambodia, the blocs current chair, for concrete actions to address the crisis. ASEAN, and specifically its chair, must immediately discontinue inviting any other junta representatives to all ASEAN official meetings until there is an end to violence, all political prisoners are freed, and the will of the people for fully fledged democracy has been heard, APHR said.

Santiago said: It is shocking that more than 14 million people in Myanmar, a fifth of the population, are in need of life-saving humanitarian assistance, and yet ASEAN has still only provided aid to support the Covid-19 response.

Military chief Min Aung Hlaing has been barred from attending ASEAN meetings over his failure to implement a five-point consensus peace plan adopted in April 2021

ASEAN should now focus its collective political will to help people in need and support local non-state actors and networks that the people already trust to distribute aid, he added.

The OHCHR report supports the clear and urgent need for the regional bloc to respond or risk increased damage to its already weakening credibility. The UN along with countries including the US and China have urged ASEAN to move forward with diplomatic efforts to return Myanmar to stability.

Military chief Min Aung Hlaing has been barred from attending ASEAN meetings over his failure to implement a five-point consensus peace plan adopted in April 2021.

ASEAN has invited a non-political representative of Myanmar to meetings but the junta didn't join it, insisting it is the legitimate authority.

Cambodia's Deputy Prime Minister Prak Sokhonn will visit Myanmar on March 20-23 as a special envoy of the 10-member bloc to solve the crisis triggered by the military coup.

The people of Myanmar, however, have little faith in ASEAN to tackle Myanmar's crisis amidst ongoing atrocities committed by the junta, which has been torturing and killing civilians, making arbitrary arrests, attacking churches and burning civilian homes.

At least 1,600 people have been killed by the junta since the February 2021 coup in a bloody crackdown against anti-coup protesters and civil resistance groups in urban, rural and ethnic areas of the country.

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