ASEAN Stagnates as the Crisis in Myanmar Intensifies

November 9th, 2021  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  12 minute read
Featured image

“Let’s make sure that this junta stops all these violent attacks day in and day out…The UN and international community, as a minimum benchmark, must guarantee for this for the people of Myanmar, otherwise I do not see a point in dialogue [with the military junta]”

Khin Ohmar, Progressive Voice’s Chairperson of the Advisory Board

In an unprecedented and welcomed move, ASEAN excluded the attempted coup leader Min Aung Hlaing from the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summit. Yet, ASEAN could not muster the will needed to completely exclude this illegitimate body from the Summit – inviting a ‘non-political’ representative which was rejected by Min Aung Hlaing who felt slighted by this move by ASEAN to invite a lower rank official. As a result, Myanmar was left without representation. ASEAN did not invite the legitimate government of Myanmar – the National Unity Government (NUG) – which Myanmar civil society organizations have persistently urged them to do in the lead up to the Summit.

ASEAN broke with the tradition of the ‘ASEAN way’ of non-interference in making the decision to not allow Min Aung Hlaing at the ASEAN Summit. It must continue to look beyond the principle of non-interference and place more emphasis on their commitments to human rights and democracy, serving the interests of the people of Myanmar instead of a murderous terrorist organization. In any event ASEAN allowed junta representatives, including the junta’s Foreign Minister, to attend side events at the Summit and other platforms in the past and has not made any assurance then to exclude the military junta from future events.

On 21 October, the Women’s League of Burma, Sister2Sister, Women Advocacy Coalition, Women Alliance Burma and Progressive Voice jointed together in a statement calling on ASEAN to reject the junta’s representatives to the ASEAN Commission on the protection and promotion of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC), outlining the horrific acts committed against women and children by the military junta and how the junta’s actions represent the antithesis of what ACWC is trying to achieve. The Myanmar military uses rape as a weapon of war and has committed sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls through decades of civil war in ethnic states and during the Spring Revolution. Children have been killed, tortured, arbitrarily detained and denied education since the attempted coup. In spite of the group’s strong calls, ACWC has betrayed the people of Myanmar by allowing the junta representative to attend the ACWC meeting.

As the above groups clearly point to, the military junta representatives have no place representing the people of Myanmar, and should be barred from all ASEAN summits and platforms, and should not be included in international or UN platforms. Disappointingly, UN Climate Change included military junta personnel on their attendees list for the 26th UN Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, in Glasgow, which is at odds with the will of the people of Myanmar who should be represented by their legitimate government, the National Unity Government (NUG). While it is still unclear if the military junta’s personnel attended, the UN and other actors must ensure they don’t provide any legitimacy to the junta and their representatives and make sure there is transparency around this issue. The junta will use these and other events as propaganda to legitimize their coup attempt, emboldening them to continue to commit atrocities and to try and demoralize the pro-democracy movement. In one recent example, the military junta’s invite was not rescinded to the ASEAN Law Ministers’ Meeting (ALAWMM), a side event to the ASEAN Summit – which was printed in the military junta’s propaganda newspaper.

Shockingly, the military junta’s auditor general, Dr. Kan Zaw, has been invited as ‘the guest of honor’ to ASEAN Federation of Accountants (AFA) Conference, given he is directly involved in the military junta’s systematic theft of public assets to finance atrocity crimes. Leading international accounting bodies from Australia, Japan, New Zealand, UK, USA and across Southeast Asia are set to attend. Justice For Myanmar spokesperson, Yadanar Maung says “It is abhorrent that regional and international accounting bodies are reputation laundering for the Myanmar military junta through involvement in the 22nd AFA Conference. The junta is a terrorist organisation that has committed egregious international crimes, including war crimes and crimes against humanity….We demand international partners, sponsors and speakers boycott the AFA conference unless the Myanmar junta and MICPA [Myanmar Institute of Certified Public Accountants] is excluded.” Peak accounting bodies CPA Australia and Chartered Accountants of Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) have withdrawn their support from the conference following grassroots pressure lead by Justice For Myanmar.

On 22 October, the NUG sent a letter to the ASEAN Summit and reiterated its intentions to partner with ASEAN in good-faith to address the Myanmar crisis, particularly with the ASEAN Special Envoy to Myanmar. The NUG’s newly appointed Ambassador to ASEAN, U Bo Hla Tint, has signalled his readiness to work with the regional bloc and has asked them to act decisively through recognition of the NUG as the legitimate representative of Myanmar. ASEAN must invite the NUG, their legitimate counterpart, to have dialogue and assist them in ending the brutal violence by the military junta and achieving federal democracy. Yet, ASEAN has so far failed to act decisively. At the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) news conference on Wednesday 27 October, Progressive Voice’s Chairperson of the Advisory Board, Khin Ohmar said “It is crucial that ASEAN works with the National Unity Government, and seek out a UN coordinated response together to save the people of Myanmar”.

Meanwhile, the junta has begun a massive scorched earth campaign they have coined “Operation Anawrahta” in north-western Myanmar after weeks of building up troops and armaments in the region. In Chin State, the junta shelled Thantlang resulting in at least 160 houses and two churches being burned to the ground and nearly all 8,000 residents fleeing. However, many were unable to flee such as elderly residents and 20 children and their teachers trapped in an orphanage, with junta soldiers looting and plundering the township. In Sagaing Region, the military junta used advanced military weaponry, including launching airstrikes from fighter jets and opened fire on people from four helicopters on villages in Kyunhla Township.

Despite the decision to exclude Min Aung Hlaing from the ASEAN Summits, ASEAN is still inviting the junta who continues to commit horrific violence and atrocity crimes, which are now rapidly escalating in Chin State. The international community can no longer hide behind ASEAN and its role in the region, as it has clearly demonstrated its ineffective engagement with the junta and its failed Five-Point Consensus. The UN and the international community must fully commit to an urgent coordinated response to the intensifying crisis in Myanmar. They must act beyond rhetoric, statements of condemnations and high level meetings – the time for data collection and a wait-and-see approach is over. The UN Security Council must urgently meet to address the situation in Chin State, and pass a resolution on the situation in Myanmar that consolidates international action.

The military junta is in north-western Myanmar, building themselves up for a massive assault. This large troop build up occurred before the clearance operation against the Rohingya in Rakhine State in 2017. This has been echoed by 27 Rohingya civil society organizations who have called on the UN Security Council to not repeat their failure to act in response to the Rohingya genocide. The response by the UN has not been proportionate to the gravity of atrocities committed on the ground by the military junta, historically and in the current context. Worse yet, there are some within the international community who are making efforts to normalize the military’s attempted coup, providing legitimacy to the junta at different international and regional platforms while trying to convince Myanmar’s Spring Revolution to have a dialogue with the military. As Khin Ohmar stated at the APHR News Conference, “Let’s make sure that this junta stops all these violent attacks day in and day out…The UN and international community, as a minimum benchmark, must guarantee for this for the people of Myanmar, otherwise I do not see a point in dialogue [with the military junta]”


[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

United Nations Security Council: Convene an Emergency Meeting to Address The Impending Crisis in Chin State and Northwestern Burma/Myanmar

By 92 Chin Civil Society Organizations

Joint Statement from Student Unions

By 236 Myanmar Student Unions

Open Letter calling on the UN General Assembly to show decisive leadership in response to deepening crisis in Myanmar

By 427 Myanmar Civil Society Organizations

Myanmar civil society organizations call on UN’s decisive leadership amid fears of escalating military attacks

By 427 Myanmar Civil Society Organizations

Parliamentarians call on ASEAN to take concrete steps on Myanmar at Summit, meet with NUG

By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

Chairman’s Statement of the 16th East Asia Summit

By Association of Southeast Asian Nations

AAPP statement on the ruthless arrest of 88 student leader, Ko Jimmy aka Kyaw Min Yu

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

နိုင်ငံရေးအကျဉ်းသားများကို လွှတ်ပေးမှုအပေါ် အချက်အလက်ရရှိမှုဆိုင်ရာ ထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

Statement on Data Collection of Political Prisoner Releases: Continued Lack of Transparency by Junta Since 18 October

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

Australian and Myanmar groups welcome Adani Ports’ withdrawal from Myanmar and renew calls to shelve Carmichael coal project

By Australian Centre for International Justice, Justice For Myanmar, Market Forces and Stop Adani

Statement by Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun on Agenda item 69 at the Plenary Meeting of the 76th UNGA

By Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun, Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar to the United Nations

UK Is Raising North-Western Burma Crisis with UN Security Council Members

By Burma Campaign UK

အာဏာရူးမင်းအောင်လှိုင် အကြမ်းဖက်အဖွဲ့၏ ထန်တလန်မြို့ကို လက်နက်ကြီး(မီးကျည်)ဖြင့် ပစ်ခတ်မီးရှို့မှုအပေါ် သတိပေးခြင်းနှင့် သဘောထားထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By Chinland Defense Force – Hakha

Statement of Concern: Arrest, Detention and Deportation Of Chin Refugees & Asylum Seekers in Malaysia

By Chin Human Rights Organization

CHRO reiterates the call for U.N Security Council Action as Thantlang is set ablaze and Reinforcements arrive into Falam

By Chin Human Rights Organization

ချင်းပြည်နယ်၊ ထန်တလန်မြို့၌ အာဏာသိမ်း စစ်ကောင်စီတပ်များ၏ အကြမ်းဖက် လုပ်ရပ်များနှင့် စပ်လျဉ်း၍ သဘောထားထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw

Commissioner Lenarčič in Bangladesh: EU provides €12 million for displaced Rohingyas in Bangladesh and Myanmar

By European Commission

Singapore authorities must act urgently to cut business links with terrorist Myanmar military

By Justice For Myanmar

ကလေးတက္ကသိုလ်ကျောင်းသားကျောင်းသူများနှင့် မိဘပြည်သူများသို့ မေတ္တာရပ်ခံချက်

By Kalay University Students’ Union

Statement Condemning the Offensive Operation of the Military Council in Northern and North-Western Parts of Myanmar (Burma)

By Legal Aid Network

စစ်ကောင်စီက မြန်မာနိုင်ငံ မြောက်ပိုင်းနှင့် အနောက်မြောက်ဒေသအား သာလွန်စစ်အင်အားအသုံးပြု၍ ထိုးစစ်ဆင်လာမှုအပေါ် အပြင်းအထန်ကန့်ကွက်ခြင်း

By Legal Aid Network

အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ ပညာရေးဝန်ကြီးဌာန ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် (၃၈/၂၀၂၁)

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Education)

အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ ပညာရေးဝန်ကြီးဌာန ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် (၃၇ /၂၀၂၁)

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Education)

ဝန်ထမ်းသစ်များခေါ်ယူ၊ရွေးချယ်၊ ခန့်ထားခြင်းများနှင့် စပ်လျဉ်း၍ ကြေညာချက် – ကြေညာချက်အမှတ် (၇/၂၀၂၁)

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

Statement on Terrorist Acts by Forces of Terrorist Military Junta in Thantlang, Chin State

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

ချင်းပြည်နယ်၊ ထန်တလန်မြို့၌ အာဏာသိမ်း အကြမ်းဖက်စစ်ကောင်စီ ဖက်ဆစ်စစ်တပ်များ၏ အကြမ်းဖက်လုပ်ရပ်များနှင့် စပ်လျဉ်း၍ သဘောထားထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

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

National Unity Government Ministry of Health Announcement (10/2021)

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Health)

စစ်ကောင်စီ၏ အကြမ်းဖက်လုပ်ရပ်များ နှင့် စပ်လျဥ်းသော ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Labour)

ပြည်ထောင်စုသမ္မတမြန်မာနိုင်ငံတော်၊ အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရ၏ နွေဦးတော်လှန်ရေး အထူးငွေတိုက် စာချုပ်များအား ဥပဒေနှင့်အညီ ထုတ်ဝေရောင်းချသွားမည်ဖြစ်ကြောင်း အသိပေး ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာခြင်း။ – ကြေညာချက် (၁၂/၂၀၂၁)

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Planning, Finance and Investment)

အကြမ်းဖက်စစ်ကောင်စီမှ ထန်တလန်မြို့ရှိ ပြည်သူ့အိုးအိမ်များကို မီးရှို့ဖျက်ဆီးသွားသည့်အပေါ် ထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By People’s Defense Force – Demawso

297 Reported Attacks and Threats to Health Care During Eight Months of Myanmar Military’s Brutal Crackdown

By Physicians for Human Rights

Myanmar: Save the Children Office Destroyed by Fire Amid Violent Clashes

By Save the Children

“We Will Either Die of Starvation or Die Fighting” — UN Security Council Must Act on Myanmar

By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

Myanmar: Child Rights Violations Must Stop Now

By Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Myanmar, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Violence against Children and Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict

Statement by NSC Spokesperson Emily Horne on National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s Meeting with Burmese NUG Representatives

By The White House (United States of America)

The United States Condemns Reported Attacks in Chin State

By U.S. Department of State

European Union reinforces WFP response to rising food insecurity in Myanmar

By World Food Programme



Regional Overview: East and Southeast Asia 16-22 October 2021

By Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project

Analysis report of Women’s situation from July to September 2021

By Burmese Women’s Union

Myanmar prison release falls short with over 20 journalists still behind bars

By Committee to Protect Journalists

New Reports of Torture in Myanmar

By Human Rights Watch

Bi-weekly situation update by the Karenni Civil Society Network – Summary of SAC human rights violations in Karenni State and Pekhon Township

By Karenni Civil Society Network

ကရင်နီလူမှုအသင်းအဖွဲ့များကွန်ရက်၏ နှစ်ပတ်တကြိမ် အခြေအနေ တင်ပြချက် အောက်တိုဘာလ – ကရင်နီပြည်နယ်နှင့် ဖယ်ခုံမြို့နယ် အတွင်း စစ်ကောင်စီ၏ ချိုးဖောက်မှုများ အကျဉ်း

By Karenni Civil Society Network

UNICEF Myanmar Humanitarian Situation Report No. 7: 28 October 2021

By The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef)

WFP Myanmar Situation Report #4 August — September 2021

By World Food Programme

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.”