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Myanmar: ASEAN meeting outcomes ignores assault on rights and civil society

April 28th, 2021  •  Author: CIVICUS  •  3 minute read
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Global civil society alliance CIVICUS is disappointed that the outcomes of the regional ASEAN summit held in Jakarta fell short of what is necessary to address Myanmar’s human rights crisis, including by failing to call for the immediate release of human rights activists, journalists and others arbitrarily detained. This failure undermines any chance of ensuring a genuine dialogue and transition back to democratic civilian rule.

A statement released after the summit said the leaders and foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had reached a consensus on five points. They included asking for an immediate stop to the violence and opening a dialogue between the military and civilian leaders, with that process overseen by a special ASEAN envoy who would also visit with a delegation. The group also offered humanitarian assistance. The statement offered no timeline for these actions to be taken or an implementing mechanism.

No mention was made of the nearly 4,000 people who have been arbitrarily detained by the military, including activists, peaceful protesters, and journalists, some in unknown locations and denied access to lawyers or family members. Many are facing serious and baseless charges, including treason.

“Millions of people in Myanmar were hoping that ASEAN would, for once, uphold the principles enshrined in the ASEAN Charter including the rule of law and respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and were once again tremendously disappointed. ASEAN has failed the thousands of political prisoners including activists and journalists by not calling for their immediate and unconditional release, which should be an integral part of any successful efforts to restore democracy,” said David Kode, CIVICUS’s Advocacy and Campaigns Lead.

The summit also failed to acknowledge the National Unity Government (NUG) that was formed on 16 April 2021 representing elected members of the Union Parliament. It also ignored the serious violations that have occurred in Myanmar since the coup which left around 750 dead, including children and thousands injured due to the use of lethal force by the security forces to crack down on protests, the ill-treatment by the security forces during night-time raids and the internet shutdowns. No mention was made of UN resolutions on the crisis adopted by consensus at the Human Rights Council since the coup. Nor was there any acknowledgment of or offering of support to the UN mechanisms mandated to monitor and report on human rights violations relating to the coup.

“The failure to acknowledge and engage with the legitimately elected representatives of the people of Myanmar shows that ASEAN leaders’ talk of democracy is only lip service. We call for ASEAN to put their words into action by demanding an end to the state of emergency and for the elected civilian government to be restored,” said David Kode.

Since the meeting, the junta already seem to be backtracking from their already minimal promises. Myanmar military junta leader Min Aung Hlaing said he will consider proposals by ASEAN to solve the ongoing crisis in Myanmar only after peace and stability are restored in his country.

CIVICUS reiterates calls for an immediate end to the escalating violence by the military, the immediate and unconditional release of all those arbitrarily detained, and for steps to be taken by the international community, including ASEAN, to hold those responsible for the serious human rights violations to account.


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