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EU, ASEAN criticized for inviting Myanmar junta to rights meet

Invitation 'detrimental' to efforts to 'reverse the worsening human rights situation' in strife-torn nation, they say
Myanmar's Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing stands in a vehicle as he attends a ceremony to mark the country's 78th Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw on March 27, 2023.

Myanmar's Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing stands in a vehicle as he attends a ceremony to mark the country's 78th Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw on March 27, 2023. (Photo: AFP)

Published: October 03, 2023 11:07 AM GMT
Updated: October 03, 2023 11:41 AM GMT

Rights groups have criticized the decision to invite Myanmar junta representatives to an upcoming human rights meeting to be hosted by the European Union (EU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

In a joint statement on Oct. 2, five rights groups including Human Rights Watch (HRW) said they expressed dismay over the invitation to Myanmar junta to attend the human rights dialogue during the ongoing ASEAN Civil Society Forum.

“We deeply regret the invitation of junta representatives, which contradicts the approach taken by both the EU and ASEAN,” the statement said.

“The last-minute decision to invite junta representatives to the human rights dialogue is… not only shameful but also incomprehensible,” the groups added.

Among the signatories are the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), FORUM-Asia, Front Line Defenders, and Protection International.

The FIDH and FORUM-Asia were among the rights groups who reportedly pulled out of the event scheduled for Oct. 3 protesting the invitation to the Myanmar military regime.

The group said that the invitation was “detrimental” to the efforts so far by the EU and ASEAN to stop the alleged rights violations in Myanmar.

“It seems to undermine efforts by the EU and ASEAN to reverse the worsening human rights situation in Myanmar,” the groups alleged.

ASEAN had excluded Myanmar junta representatives from summits and ministerial meetings hosted by it in response to the February 2021 military coup that overthrew a democratically elected government.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, the current chair of the ASEAN had proposed the exclusion of Myanmar junta representatives from other ASEAN gatherings in November 2022.

The groups pointed out that the EU had decided not to recognize the junta and had adopted “targeted sanctions against individuals and entities responsible for horrific abuses committed.”

The EU has also played a key role in creating the 'UN Independent Investigative Mechanism on Myanmar' to promote accountability and justice for the victims and survivors of rights violations committed in Myanmar since 2011.

The rights groups also rejected any possible actions or words aimed at acknowledging the Myanmar junta.

“We reject in the strongest possible terms any effort that may be perceived as legitimizing the junta,” the groups said.

The statement slammed the Myanmar junta for unleashing a “brutal crackdown on pro-democracy activists and ethnic minorities, as well as on civil society groups, human rights defenders, trade unions, journalists, and political opponents.”

A UN report released in June cited 105 attacks on schools and hospitals in 2022, most of them reported from Sagaing in central Myanmar, Kayin state in the southeast, and Kayah state in the northeast. It attributed 66 of those attacks to armed forces, 26 to unidentified perpetrators, and 13 to people’s defense forces.

Myanmar witnessed the killing of 11 children at a village school in a junta air strike in September 2022 that sparked a global outrage.

Pope Francis condemned the incident for contravening an international humanitarian law against attacks on children in times of conflict.

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