ASEAN, the Junta, and ‘Non-Political Representation’

October 23rd, 2021  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  9 minute read
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“While giving the junta a platform is immoral and an insult to the legitimate democratic government of Myanmar – the National Unity Government (NUG) – and the brave people fighting against tyranny in Myanmar’s Spring Revolution, it is also a wrong political choice and goes against democratic principles.”

In a surprise move, the Foreign Ministers at the ASEAN Ministerial meeting agreed to invite a ‘non-political’ representative of Myanmar to the upcoming ASEAN summit rather than agree to invite a ‘political representative’ of the junta. This is the first time that ASEAN as a bloc has demonstrated even an inclination towards diplomatic sanction against the Myanmar junta. While this statement has been broadly welcomed by stakeholders in and outside Myanmar, it is imperative that the ‘non-political representative’ of Myanmar does not represent the junta, otherwise, any semblance that ASEAN is willing to take substantive action, would be lacking sincerity.

In a statement released after the emergency meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers held on 15 October, they announced that “there was no consensus reached for a political representative from Myanmar to attend the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits and Related Summits in October 2021.” Lack of progress on the five-point consensus agreed between ASEAN and the Myanmar junta in April, and unwillingness of the Myanmar junta to allow ASEAN’s Special Envoy for Myanmar, Brunei’s Minister for Foriegn Affairs, Erywan Yusof, to meet with detained State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, have catalyzed this decision. The junta has responded that it is “extremely disappointed” and “strongly objected” to this decision, which is not surprising given how it is desperate to claim any sort of legitimacy as the government of Myanmar – a legitimacy that it severely lacks. The announcement follows an open letter from 52 civil society organizations to the bloc, calling on “ASEAN leaders to deny the head of the Myanmar military junta a seat at the table and display to him that his callous disregard for the people, and his regional neighbors, does not come free of consequences,” while also stating that “Myanmar’s junta has failed to respect this [ASEAN Five-Point] consensus on every single count.”

The reference to the Five-Point Consensus, presented as a diplomatic achievement by ASEAN when it was reached in April, and the junta’s failure to live up to the expectations of such an agreement, should not be surprising. Another agreement that was signed with great fanfare, constantly referred to in years since, and has been shown time and time again as something that the Myanmar military did not agree to in good faith, is the 2015 nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA). Signed between the military, eight ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), and the military-backed government of President Thein Sein in October 2015, with many EAOs part of the drafting process but excluded from the final agreement, the NCA was trumpeted as a successful step in the peace process. Even before the attempted coup the military regularly breached its terms through building military infrastructure in and encroaching on Karen National Union territory, one of the biggest and politically significant EAOs. Furthermore, in a statement on the six year anniversary of the NCA, the KNU expressed that “It is with great regret that we see the military coup on 1 February 2021 has breached all NCA’s principles and stopped the NCA implementation, so that the military returns to dictatorship with the use of coercive force for solving what are political problems.” It is ironic, that as the junta and the representatives of NCA signatories, most of whom are smaller organizations with little military standing, commemorated six years of a ‘nationwide’ ‘ceasefire’ ‘agreement,’ the Myanmar military is amassing troops and hardware in preparation for sustained military operations in Chin State and Sagaing and Magway Regions, areas that have seen some of the most organized, spirited and effective resistance against the military. The civilian population in these areas brace for violence, murder, destruction and devastation.

It should be clear that, as with the NCA, the Five-Point Consensus agreement that the junta agreed with ASEAN will not be upheld in good faith by the power-hungry junta. Thus, while it is welcome that the ASEAN has indicated that a political representative of the junta will not be invited at the upcoming summits, as a statement by Myanmar civil society organizations expresses, any representative of the junta, political or non-political must be rejected. Giving the junta legitimacy by allowing them space at international platforms and fora, is unfortunately not unprecedented. Examples include the UN Office for Drugs and Crime allowing a junta official, Lieutenant-General Than Hlaing, who is sanctioned by Canada, US, UK and the EU, to participate in their 64th session of the Commission on Narcotics Drugs in April. US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, participated in a virtual meeting with ASEAN Ministers, including Myanmar in August.

While giving the junta a platform is immoral and an insult to the legitimate democratic government of Myanmar – the National Unity Government (NUG) – and the brave people fighting against tyranny in Myanmar’s Spring Revolution, it is also a wrong political choice and goes against democratic principles. This is a coup that is failing, has zero legitimacy, either through the Constitution and law, and most importantly via the people of Myanmar themselves. The junta is not in control of the country, and their only claim to legitimacy is their ability to use brutal and arbitrary force. The NUG, as the democratically elected and legitimate government of Myanmar, should be taking its rightful place at the upcoming ASEAN summits, as well as all other international platforms and fora. The junta is losing on all fronts, and the only morally acceptable and politically astute choice for actors in the international community such as ASEAN is to reject their violence, support the people’s revolution, and engage with their democratic representatives rather than an an illegitimate and brutal military, that is nothing but a criminal organization.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

Open Letter to ASEAN Leaders Re: Myanmar’s presence at the ASEAN Summit

By 52 Myanmar and International Civil Society Organizations

ACSC/APF 2021 – Day 2 Press Release

By ASEAN Peoples’ Forum

Press Release – 001

By ASEAN Peoples’ Forum

CDF-Matupi ၏ သတိပေးထုတ်ပြန်ချက် – ကြေညာချက် အမှတ် ၄/၂၀၂၁

By Chinland Defense Force – Matupi

စကစတပ်များ၏ လူသတ်၊ လူနေအိမ်မီးရှို့မှုနှင့်ပတ်သက်၍ သတင်းထုတ်ပြန် ကြေညာချက်

By Chin National Organization

Myanmar/Burma: Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the European Union to support the work of the ASEAN Special Envoy

By Council of the European Union

Bangladesh and UNHCR: Revise and Release Bhasan Char MoU, Ensure Freedom of Movement for Rohingya Refugees

By Fortify Rights

Joint Statement of Support for the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar

By Governments of the United States of America, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Timor-Leste, the United Kingdom, and the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on behalf of the European Union

ASEAN Civil Society Conference/ ASEAN Peoples’ Forum: Statement by Khin Ohmar

By Khin Ohmar, Progressive Voice

KNU Statement on the 6th Anniversary of Signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement

By Karen National Union

တနိုင်ငံလုံးပစ်ခတ်တိုက်ခိုက်မှုရပ်စဲရေးသဘောတူစာချုပ် (Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement – NCA) လက်မှတ်ရေးထိုးမှု (၆) နှစ်မြောက် ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေငြာချက်

By Karen National Union

ပြည်သူများသို့အသိပေးကြေညာခြင်း (၂၀၂၁ ခုနှစ်၊ အောက်တိုဘာလ (၁၅) နေ့။)

By Karenni Nationalities Defense Force

Statement of the Chair of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

By Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brunei Darussalam

မဟာမိတ်များပူးပေါင်းစစ်ဆင်ရေး (၅)

By Monywa People Defence Force – MPDF

မုံရွာမြို့နယ် ပြည်သူ့ကာကွယ်ရေးတပ်ဖွဲ့ ၏ တိုက်တွန်းနှိုးဆော်ချက်

By Monywa People Defence Force – MPDF

မြန်မာ့မီးရထား CDM ဝန်ထမ်းများအား ဝန်ထမ်းအိမ်ရာမှ အတင်းအဓမ္မ ဖယ်ရှားနေသော လုပ်ရပ်များနှင့် စပ်လျဉ်း၍ ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာခြင်း

By National Unity Government of Myanmar

အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ ပညာရေးဝန်ကြီးဌာန ကြေညာချက်အမှတ်(၃၅/၂၀၂၁) – ကြားကာလ အခြေခံပညာရေး စစ်ဆေးအကဲဖြတ်ခြင်း ဆိုင်ရာထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Education)

Declaration on Relations with Neighboring Countries and Border Security – Statement No. (5 / 2021)

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

Ministry of Foreign Affairs Statement No. (6 / 2021) – Myanmar’s Representation at the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits and Related Summits in October 2021

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

မြန်မာနိုင်ငံလုံးဆိုင်ရာ CDM မီးသတ်ဝန်ထမ်းများ ကိုယ်စားပြုကော်မတီဖွဲ့စည်းကြောင်း ကြေညာခြင်း – ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် (၅/၂၀၂၁)

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration)

အထွေထွေအုပ်ချုပ်ရေးဦးစီးဌာန CDM ဝန်ထမ်းများ အုပ်ချုပ်မှုကော်မတီ ဖွဲ့စည်းကြောင်း ကြေညာခြင်း – ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် (၆/၂၀၂၁)

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration)

ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် (၈/၂၀၂၁) ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာခြင်း

By Pakokku People Defense Force

တစ်နိုင်ငံလုံးပစ်ခတ်တိုက်ခိုက်မှုရပ်စဲရေးသဘောတူစာချုပ် (NCA) လက်မှတ် ရေးထိုးခြင်း (၆)နှစ်ပြည့် အထိမ်းအမှတ် ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By Peace Process Steering Team

Sixth Anniversary of the Signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) Statement

By Peace Process Steering Team

ဆားလင်းကြီးမြို့နယ် ပြည်သူ့ကာကွယ်ရေးတပ်ဖွဲ့ ဖွဲ့စည်းပြီးကြောင်း ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေငြာချက် – ကြေငြာချက်အမှတ် ၁/၂၀၂၁

By Salingyi Special Task Force

PDF-Kalay ၏ သတိပေးခြင်း

By People’s Defence Force – Kalay

အကြမ်းဖက်စစ်ကောင်စီ၏ ထောက်တိုင် များဖြစ်သည့် ရပ်ကွက်/ ကျေးရွာအုပ်ချုပ် ရေးမှူးများ ၊ ဌာနဆိုင်ရာဝန်ထမ်းများ၊ အား ပေးကူညီသူများသို့နောက်ဆုံးအကြိမ် ကြိုတင် သတိပေးခြင်း – ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် (၂၆/၂၀၂၁)

By People’s Defense Force – Kani

Save the Children responds to the latest escalation in violence in Myanmar, including harm done to children

By Save the Children

Press Statement of the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar

By Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar

တရားမဝင် သစ်မှောင်ခို ထုတ်မှုကို YDF-HteeLin မှဖမ်းမိကြောင်းသတင်းထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By Yaw Defense Force – YDF

PKPF ၏ သတင်းထုတ်ပြန်ချက် (၂၀၂၁ ခုနှစ်၊ အောက်တိုဘာလ (၁၁) ရက်နေ့။)

By Progressive Karenni People Force



Access Now to Telenor’s Board: Stop the sale in Myanmar

By Access Now

Reign of Terror: SAC Junta Attacks on Lives and Properties in Chin State and Northwestern Burma/Myanmar

By Chin Human Rights Organization

Local farmers oppose Ngwe Yi Pale’s planned coal mining expansion along Pang River in Tangyan, northern Shan State

By Shan Human Rights Foundation

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”