Myanmar’s National Unity Government Disappointed With ASEAN Consensus

By The Irrawaddy 27 April 2021

Myanmar’s civilian National Unity Government (NUG) has responded to the “five-point consensus” on the crisis in the country agreed by ASEAN leaders in Jakarta on April 24, saying that the discussions didn’t reflect the true situation and aspirations of Myanmar’s people.

Prime Minister Mahn Winn Khaing Thann of the NUG also rejected the first point of the consensus, which states that “all parties shall exercise utmost restraint”, as wrong because the sole perpetrator of the violence is the military.

National Unity Government Prime Minister Mahn Winn Khaing Thann

“I wish to highlight that the violence is one-sided and committed by only one party,” he was quoted as saying in the NUG statement released on Tuesday in response to the ASEAN-junta consensus.

The regional bloc declined to invite representatives of the NUG recently formed by elected lawmakers from the 2020 general election, and which has the mandate and support of the Myanmar people. Instead ASEAN invited coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to the summit, which comes after at least 750 civilians have been killed by the regime’s forces.

Prime Minister Mahn Winn Khaing Thann said that while the NUG didn’t have the opportunity to brief the bloc about the daily reality of life under military rule that the people of Myanmar face, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing was given the opportunity to justify the military’s actions regarding law and order and stability in the country. That is despite the fact that the documented visual and reported evidence points to the contrary.

The five-point consensus released hours after the ASEAN meeting on Saturday lists five points: 1) the immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar and that all parties shall exercise utmost restraint; 2) constructive dialogue among all parties concerned to seek a peaceful solution in the interests of the people; 3) mediation to be facilitated by an envoy of ASEAN’s chair, with the assistance of the secretary-general; 4) humanitarian assistance provided by ASEAN’s Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre); and 5) a visit by the special envoy and delegation to Myanmar to meet all parties concerned.

Many people in Myanmar are distressed by the first item and disappointed by ASEAN’s exclusion of the NUG from the summit, and believe it shows that ASEAN does not understand the true situation in Myanmar.

Since the Feb. 1 coup, human rights violations such as the use of excessive or lethal force against unarmed civilians have been committed exclusively by the military. Just hours after the announcement of the five-point consensus, the military and police were harassing people who were banging pots and pans in protest at the junta, the prime minister said in the statement.

Riot police crack down on anti-military regime protesters in Yangon on Feb. 27. / The Irrawaddy

The prime minister called on ASEAN in the statement to engage with the NUG as the true representative government of the people of Myanmar. He also called for the NUG to be consulted on the ASEAN envoy’s mission and mandate, humanitarian assistance mission and also to establish accountability mechanisms for monitoring the regime’s compliance with the five-point consensus.

The statement added that while it appreciated that ASEAN wishes to facilitate constructive dialog among key stakeholders, there must be an unconditional release of political prisoners, including President U Win Myint and State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, before any such dialog can take place.

The bloc failed to urge the military to release the political prisoners arrested by the regime since the coup, while only some ASEAN leaders have called individually for that. At least 4,484 people have been arrested since the military overthrew the elected civilian government. 3,441 of them, including elected leaders, lawmakers, activists and student protesters, are still being detained by the junta.

Protesters carry a wounded colleague in Yangon’s Hlaing Township. / The Irrawaddy

The NUG prime minister expressed his thanks to Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for reiterating their call for the release of political prisoners in the Tuesday statement.

The NUG also stressed the importance of including representatives of the civil disobedience movement and ethnic armed organizations in the dialog process to ensure that all voices against military rule in Myanmar are heard by ASEAN.

During the meeting with the assembled leaders of Southeast Asian nations, the coup leader said he is not opposed to a role for the bloc but made no vows to end the use of force or to free detainees.

In an announcement made on Monday, two days after the meeting, the coup leader said he would carefully consider ASEAN leaders’ recommended steps for solving the political crisis in his country after the situation stabilizes.

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