ASEAN: Stop Shaking Hands with Terrorist Junta

February 26th, 2022  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  8 minute read
Featured image

The ASEAN governments “are not only financing the military’s crimes, but also reputation laundering for a military that kills children, rapes women and attacks displaced people with indiscriminate air strikes.”

Justice For Myanmar

The recent ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat, which was held on 16-17 February 2022 in Cambodia – the current Chair – took place without any representative from Myanmar. It is welcome that the ASEAN Foreign Ministers did not invite the junta representative to join their annual retreat, following its unprecedented decision in October last year not to invite the junta leader Min Aung Hlaing to their summits. It has been ten months since the Five-Point Consensus was agreed upon but the multidimensional crisis in Myanmar is only deepening. More than 2,200 people have been killed while over 9,000 remain in detention. The number of displaced people only continues to increase due to the junta’s violence as it intensifies aerial attacks and fierce shelling with no sign of abating. ASEAN, as the regional bloc, has repeatedly failed to resolve the Myanmar crisis. It has failed to listen to the people of Myanmar and consult with their representatives, namely the National Unity Government (NUG), the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) and ethnic revolutionary organizations (EROs). Meanwhile, the updated Cartel Finance Map by Justice For Myanmar reveals that some ASEAN governments are implicated in bankrolling the military and their grave violations against the people of Myanmar.

As the ASEAN Foreign Ministers met for their annual retreat, the military junta has intensified its attacks against the people of Myanmar across the country. Many have also been injured and killed due to airstrikes and ground attacks while many more have been arrested. On 16 February, two fighter jets launched indiscriminate airstrikes in Palu Village, Karen State, resulting in villagers being wounded and houses and a church being destroyed. The day after, on 17 February, the military junta launched another attack using airstrikes and tank ammunition in Moebye Township, Southern Shan State. Due to the fierce airstrikes, shelling and violent attacks by the junta troops, the number of displaced people is growing rapidly in Karen and Karenni States, as well as Sagaing and Magwe regions.

According to the UNOCHA, as of 31 January 2022, there have been 441,500 internally displaced people since the attempted coup on 1 February 2021. This number adds to the existing 370,400 people who were already living in protracted displacement prior to the coup attempt. Concerningly, RFA Burmese reported that a total of 4,571 homes have been burned down across the country by the military junta since February 2021. These people have lost their livelihoods and property and are unable to access basic needs including food, clean water and healthcare.

Over the period of ten months, ASEAN has not managed to implement its plan to deliver humanitarian aid to the displaced people of Myanmar through the ASEAN Coordination Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) despite it being part of their Five-Point Consensus. Meanwhile, the military claims that it is in the process of completing “the first phase of the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance provided through the AHA Centre” and is currently in preparation for the second phase.  Yet, the people of Myanmar have no idea where this assistance has gone while millions remain in dire need of aid.

The AHA Centre’s continued lack of consultations with local humanitarian aid organizations, the NUG and EROs shows clearly its lack of independence. Without formal consultation, planning and collaboration with local humanitarian actors, NUG and EROs, the people will not have trust in the AHA Centre’s provision of aid due to concerns regarding their security. This issue was recently addressed by the former Executive Director of AHA Centre, Adelina Kamal, as she called on the ASEAN leaders to use their Foreign Ministers retreat to “creatively expand humanitarian space, without having to negotiate with the SAC.” Myanmar civil society organizations as well as regional and international organizations have been repeatedly calling for humanitarian aid to be delivered through alternative channels such as through cross-border routes, and to re-direct humanitarian aid through local CSOs and ethnic-based service providers. The Myanmar military must be prevented from weaponizing humanitarian aid in their campaign of terror against the people, especially in ethnic and rural areas.

Meanwhile, ASEAN continues to lend legitimacy to the Myanmar military. Most recently, the ASEAN Special Envoy has sought approval from the junta to meet with the NUG and NUCC. As urged by the Malaysian Foreign Minister, Saifuddin Abdullah, the Special Envoy must also meet with all stakeholders including CSOs, NUG and NUCC when planning to meet with Min Aung Hlaing in March. However, in doing so, the SE should not need any approval from the military junta. Asking to do so lends further legitimacy to the illegitimate junta.

What is worse, ASEAN governments who have agreed to the Five-Point Consensus are implicated in effectively financing the military that is violently attacking the people and creating a humanitarian catastrophe. Justice For Myanmar published a Cartel Finance Map this week, which visualizes ASEAN’s business links that provide arms, services, finance and investment to the military. Among them are companies like Malaysia’s edotco and OCK Group, which lease telecommunications towers in Myanmar to military-controlled telecommunications company, Mytel. Singapore is a key financial source for the military, providing a financial hub for their business activities as well as of their partners, including arms dealers.

ASEAN must stop legitimizing the Myanmar military junta and at the same time ensure that its humanitarian aid wing – AHA Centre – is not used by the junta as a tool to weaponize humanitarian aid for their political gain. As stated by Justice For Myanmar, the ASEAN governments “are not only financing the military’s crimes, but also reputation laundering for a military that kills children, rapes women and attacks displaced people with indiscriminate air strikes.” Leaders of ASEAN and entities that they control must urgently act to stop payments to the military junta. ASEAN must support a global arms embargo and referral of Myanmar to the ICC by the UN Security Council and formally recognize, consult and collaborate with the NUG. Meanwhile, the rest of the international community must not wait for ASEAN to address Myanmar’s crisis, but take concrete action to stop this military’s barbaric acts. Myanmar cannot afford more time for ASEAN and the rest of the international community to act.


[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

Joint Open Letter: Calling on Australia’s Future Fund to divest from companies doing business with the Myanmar military

By 18 Civil Society and International Organizations

Statement On the Sexual Abuses Committed by The Junta-Troops Led by Min Aung Hlaing Upon the Woman-Comrades

By All Burma Federation of Student Unions


By Burma Campaign UK

Chin Defence Force -Kanpetlet ၏ ၇၄ နှစ်မြောက်ချင်းအမျိုးသားနေ့ ထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By Chin Defence Force -Kanpetlet

(၇၄) နှစ်မြောက် ချင်းအမျိုးသားနေ့သို့ ပေးပို့သည့် သဝဏ်လွှာ

By Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw

(၇၅)နှစ်မြောက်မွန်အမျိုးသားနေ့သို့ ပေးပို့သည့် သဝဏ်လွှာ

By Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw

ASEAN: Support a Global Arms Embargo on Myanmar Military Junta

By Fortify Rights

Atrocity Alert No. 288: Myanmar (Burma), Ukraine and China

By Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Myanmar: Scrap Draconian Cybersecurity Bill

By Human Rights Watch

Myanmar: Rohingya Genocide Case Steps Toward Justice

By Human Rights Watch

REVEALED: The ASEAN governments and companies financing and arming the Myanmar military

By Justice For Myanmar

Justice For Myanmar welcomes Kirin’s withdrawal from joint venture with Myanmar military

By Justice For Myanmar

ချင်းအမျိုးသားနေ့နှင့်ပတ်သက်၍ ကလေးတက္ကသိုလ်ကျောင်းသားများသမဂ္ဂ၏ သဘောထားထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By Kalay University Students’ Union

Mekong Watch, FoE-J and JFM cautiously welcome Mitsubishi Corporation’s withdrawal from the Yetagun project and call for responsible disengagement

By Mekong Watch, Friends of the Earth Japan and Justice For Myanmar

(၇၄) နှစ်မြောက် ချင်းအမျိုးသားနေ့သို့ အမျိုးသားညီညွတ်ရေးအစိုးရအဖွဲ့က ပေးပို့သည့်သဝဏ်လွှာ

By National Unity Government

(၇၅) နှစ်မြောက် စိန်ရတု မွန်အမျိုးသားနေ့အထိမ်းအမှတ်အခ

By National Unity Government

Announcement of the Legal Counsel for the Gambia-Myanmar case at the International Court of Justice

By National Unity Government

မသန်စွမ်းသူများအရေးအတွက် ကတိကဝတ်

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs and Disaster Management)

(၇၅) နှစ်မြောက် စိန်ရတု မွန် အမျိုးသားနေ့ ပေးပို့သည့် ဂုဏ်ပြုသဝဏ်လွှာ

By Peace Process Steering Team

(၇၄) နှစ်မြောက် ချင်းအမျိုးသားနေ့သို့ PRA Magway က ပေးပို့သည့် သ၀ဏ်လွှာ

By People’s Revolution Alliance (PRA-Magway)

Why Wait, Hun Sen?

By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

UNHCR Deputy calls for enhanced access to education and livelihoods for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees



Women Power in Spring Revolution

By Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

Ongoing War Crimes in Karenni (Kayah) State, Myanmar

By Fortify Rights

Developments in Gambia’s Case Against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice

By Human Rights Watch

Myanmar Humanitarian Update No. 15 | 15 February 2022

By United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

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.”