ASEAN Parliamentarians Call For Recognition of Myanmar’s Civilian Government

By The Irrawaddy 27 October 2021

Members of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) are urging the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and governments around the world to engage with Myanmar’s parallel National Unity Government (NUG) and impose sanctions on military regime officials and their economic interests.

APHR is made up of elected lawmakers from ASEAN countries. The pressure group is calling on ASEAN to use this week’s summit to take concrete action in an effort to resolve the crisis in Myanmar.

Myanmar has been in political and economic turmoil since the military seized power from the democratically-elected government in a February 1 coup. Since then, the junta has killed over 1,200 civilians and arrested more than 9,200 in its lethal crackdowns against anti-regime protesters.

The ASEAN summit runs October 26-28 and was convened without a representative from Myanmar, following the bloc’s decision to exclude coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, citing a lack of progress on ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus on Myanmar, agreed in late April.

“We urge governments around the world and ASEAN’s dialogue partners in particular to contribute sanctions against military officials and their economic interests. They include oil and gas, which is the junta’s main source of revenue. [And] to officially meet with the NUG to extend solidarity to the people of Myanmar who are supporting democracy since the coup,” said the APHR Chair Charles Santiago, who is a member of Malaysia’s Parliament.

He added that the Myanmar people “every day since February 1 have so bravely displayed to the world that they do not accept this murderous junta,” referring to the ongoing anti-regime movement, which ranges from armed resistance and advocacy to flash mob protests.

Despite welcoming ASEAN’s decision to exclude the junta from the summit, the APHR, NUG and civil society groups called for the bloc to do much more during a virtual panel organized on Wednesday.

The dialogue partners of the ASEAN summit have a key role in supporting and pushing ASEAN to act on behalf of the people of Myanmar and the ASEAN region, as the Myanmar crisis is creating regional problems, especially refugee issues, arms and drug trafficking and the spread of COVID-19, Charles Santiago told the panel.

“Before it turns into ASEAN’s nightmare, ASEAN governments really have to make an important decision in this meeting, acknowledging that the NUG exists and ensuring ASEAN starts the process of negotiating with the NUG,” said the Malaysian MP.

Members of the panel pointed out that ASEAN must decide to follow the right path. Some ASEAN countries – Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia – have shown their willingness to support the NUG.

U Bo Hla Tint, the NUG’s newly-appointed ambassador to ASEAN, reiterated that ASEAN should be dealing with the NUG to find solutions to Myanmar’s current political and humanitarian crisis, and to ensure stability and peace in the country as well as in the region.

The NUG and non-governmental organizations have urged ASEAN to consider whether they are going to work with the failed military regime, who lack the support of the Myanmar people, or work with the NUG, which is backed by the vast majority of people in Myanmar.

One point of ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus calls for dialogue between the junta and the representatives of the Myanmar people. That is also backed by the United States, United Nations (UN) and other key countries.

However, the Myanmar people do not see that as practical in the current circumstances.

“No dialogue can be genuine or achievable unless all sides have equal leverage. No democratic transition can be genuine and successful when it happens at the point of a gun,” said Khin Ohmar, chairperson of the Advisory Board of Progressive Voice, a Myanmar human rights group.

Citing Myanmar’s long history of civil wars and the unsuccessful talks in the past between previous military regimes and the opposition and international mediators, Khin Ohmar told The Irrawaddy that “the past nine months should be a wake-up call for all of us, that the junta is not interested in dialogue.”

She urged ASEAN, the UN and the rest of the world to demand that the military stops all its violence against the Myanmar people and releases State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint and all other people detained since the coup.

“Only then, will the regime have met the first minimum benchmark for dialogue in the future,” she said.

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