To: ASEAN Leaders
H.E. Hun Sen, Prime Minister of Cambodia, ASEAN Chair
H.E. Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, Prime Minister of Brunei
H.E. Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia
H.E. Thongloun Sisoulith, Prime Minister of Laos
H.E. Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob, Prime Minister of Malaysia
H.E. Rodrigo Roa Duterte, President of the Philippines
H.E. Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of Singapore
H.E. Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Thailand
H.E. Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister of Vietnam
24 April 2022
Re: A Year since ASEAN’s Consensus on Myanmar – Time for consequences
It has been a year since a Five-Point Consensus on Myanmar was reached at the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting between all ASEAN leaders and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to address the deteriorating political and humanitarian crisis triggered by his illegal coup d’état.
In this year, Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing has totally failed to implement any of the Five Point Consensus. Given this failure, it is time for ASEAN to move on to sanctioning him for the continued suffering he is inflicting on the people of Myanmar and his blatant disregard for his regional partners.
Over this period, the Myanmar military has unleashed an all-out war over its people which according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights consists of “systematic and widespread human rights violations and abuses” that may amount to “war crimes and crimes against humanity.” These crimes include the arbitrary arrests of thousands of anti-junta activists and their family members; the routine torture of detainees, often with lethal consequences; the shooting of unarmed protesters, air strikes against civilians in Myanmar’s ethnic areas, the burning of whole villagers, and extrajudicial killings.
In the face of these atrocities, ASEAN must now accept the fact, repeatedly demonstrated over the last months, that Commander in Chief Min Aung Hlaing, has no intention whatsoever of abiding by the Consensus unless he feels a strong pressure to do so.
In APHR’s original joint response we offered suggestions and support to ensure that the implementation of the Five Point Consensus makes a positive contribution to improve the situation on the ground. It is in the same spirit that we now urge you to take the following steps, in order to stop the Myanmar military’s atrocities, hold the perpetrators accountable, and initiate a real process towards peace and democratization.
First, ASEAN must thoroughly re-consider the role and appointment mechanism of the Special Envoy to Myanmar, in view of the poor record of the previous and current holder of this admittedly difficult position.
As it stands now, the Special Envoy does not represent ASEAN as such, but the group’s Chair, and thus changes every year, making it extremely difficult to maintain a coherent policy over time. Also, both of the Special Envoys appointed so far have been high officials in their respective ministries of foreign affairs, for whom their missions as special envoys was not their only, or even top, priority.
In order to make the position more effective, the Special Envoy should be exclusively dedicated to this mission, appointed on a long-term basis, and respond to ASEAN as a whole, rather than the rotating Chair position. ASEAN members should establish clear and comprehensive terms of reference that make explicit the tasks, mandate and authority entailed by the role of Special Envoy; as well as allocate the necessary resources to carry out the mission.
Second, when the Five-Point Consensus was agreed last year, APHR pointed out that the lack of a timeframe and enforcement mechanisms rendered it virtually toothless. Given that atrocities continued to be committed, unabated by the State Administration Council over the past year, it is high time for the junta to face real consequences for their criminal actions. Such consequences should include the suspension of Myanmar’s membership in ASEAN; travel bans for Min Aung Hlaing and the members of his State Administration Council (SAC) in the region; targeted sanctions against the leaders of the coup, those responsible for committing crimes against humanity and their economic interests.
Third, the Consensus calls for “a constructive dialogue among all parties” in order “to seek a peaceful solution” to the conflict unleashed by the military, and gives the ASEAN Special Envoy the mission to facilitate such a dialogue. One year later, neither of the Special Envoys have made any progress on this, having only met representatives of the military, and not a single representative of the National Unity Government of Myanmar (NUG), which represents the democratically elected government and receives support from the majority of the Myanmar people.
Therefore, we urge ASEAN to immediately and publicly meet with the NUG. Representatives of Ethnic Armed Organisations (EAOs) must also be included in further dialogue to ensure that all voices are heard.
Finally, the coup has triggered an economic catastrophe on the 54 million inhabitants of Myanmar. More than half are now in poverty, while the country’s economy has shrunk by a staggering 18%, according to the World Bank. Provision and distribution of aid is now a matter of the utmost urgency and necessity.
ASEAN’s plan to deliver aid through the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) has not only been insufficient but has also manifestly not reached out to the people in need. Instead, ASEAN should immediately begin to work with Myanmar’s local community-based and civil society organisations, as well as relevant international agencies, to effectively provide aid directly to the people in need. Given the scale of the aid required and the military’s history of blocking the delivery of humanitarian aid, collaboration with agencies experienced in running humanitarian operations in Myanmar will help ensure that ASEAN’s intervention abides by the “do no harm” principle.
We also urge neighboring countries, particularly ASEAN member, Thailand, to allow those fleeing persecution and violence to cross its borders, to seek asylum and receive humanitarian aid.
Lastly, we urge ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners and the wider international community to support ASEAN in ensuring it can take up the regional leadership role required to respond to a situation of this gravity, including by supporting the implementation of the above recommendations.
The question to ASEAN leaders now is: will you allow the military to continue committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, and threaten the human security and economic development of the region for another year?
ASEAN’s credibility depends on its ability to act in accordance with the reality of the situation in Myanmar. The group cannot expect the military to abide by the terms of the Five-Point Consensus or to any international or humanitarian norm for that matter. It is imperative that the member states escalate measures to put real pressure on the military to stop it from brutalizing its own population and turning the country into a failed state, and do all they can to work towards the fulfillment of the Myanmar people’s aspirations for peace and democracy.
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
CC: ASEAN Dialogue Partners
H.E. Will Nankervis, Ambassador of Australia to ASEAN
H.E. Diedrah Kelly, Ambassador of Canada to ASEAN
H.E. Deng Xijun, Ambassador of China to ASEAN
H.E. Igor Driesmans, Ambassador of the European Union to ASEAN
H.E. Shri Jayant N. Khobragade, Ambassador of India to ASEAN
H.E. Chiba Akira, Ambassador of Japan to ASEAN
H.E. Lim Sung-nam, Ambassador of Korea to ASEAN
H.E. Stuart Calman, Ambassador of New Zealand to ASEAN
H.E. Alexander Ivanov, Ambassador of Russia to ASEAN
H.E. Jon Lambe, Ambassador of the United Kingdom to ASEAN
H.E. Melissa A. Brown, Chargé d’Affaires, a.i., U.S. Mission to ASEAN