JAKARTA – Parliamentarians from Southeast Asia urge the United States of America and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to take the opportunity of their upcoming summit in Washington to increase their pressure on the Myanmar military junta, which staged a coup d’état in February last year and has thrown the country into a state of chaos ever since.
The leaders of ASEAN and the United States have declared that they intend to enhance their strategic partnership for the mutual benefit of the peoples of ASEAN and the United States. In that spirit, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) advises that they should take concrete steps to address the inherent threat to peace, economic development and human security in Southeast Asia posed by the crisis in Myanmar.
“Let this 45th anniversary of US-ASEAN relations be the occasion for the US and ASEAN governments to begin a new phase in their relations that truly benefits the people and puts human rights and the prevention of atrocities, in Myanmar and elsewhere, at the top of the agenda. They can no longer ignore the threat that the junta in Myanmar poses to the security of millions of people at the heart of Southeast Asia,” said Charles Santiago, Member of Parliament from Malaysia, and APHR Chairperson.
The current crisis is wholly and solely caused by the junta, led by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, which overthrew the democratically elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi on 1 February 2021. The Myanmar population has valiantly resisted the coup and, in order to impose its rule on the country, the military has committed widespread atrocities. According to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, these may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Over the last year, Myanmar’s military has completely ignored the ASEAN’s Five Point Consensus on Myanmar, which was agreed on in April 2021 and was also supported by the US. Violence continues unabated, there is no dialogue between the junta and forces resisting military rule, and humanitarian aid is not reaching the Myanmar people.
The Special Summit provides the perfect opportunity for the allies to work on coordinated measures to make Min Aung Hlaing and his junta pay the price for their failure to abide by an agreement they claimed to accept.
“Humanity is our common thread across the Pacific and across the world. We must stand together in the face of these atrocities, Asians and Americans, as we share the same concern for the people of Myanmar. Now is the time for ASEAN and the US to make their historic alliance truly meaningful to people in desperate need,” said Mercy Barends, MP in Indonesia and an APHR Board Member.
We urge the US and ASEAN to adopt much stronger measures than those taken so far, including the suspension of Myanmar’s membership in the group, travel bans in the region for Min Aung Hlaing and his generals, and targeted sanctions against the leaders of the coup. The US has already imposed some sanctions since the coup, but it should reinforce them and include the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), a state conglomerate that has given 1.5 billion dollars in gas revenues to the junta.
We also urge the US and ASEAN governments to publicly meet with Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), which represents the democratically elected government and receives support from the majority of the Myanmar people.
Lastly, we call on the United States and ASEAN to work together to urgently deliver the life-saving humanitarian aid that the Myanmar people need. This aid should be channeled as much as possible through Myanmar’s community-based and civil society organizations, to effectively reach those that need it the most. The United States and ASEAN member states, especially Thailand, should also welcome the people of Myanmar who are fleeing persecution and violence, and give them asylum.
APHR stands ready to assist the US and ASEAN as they formulate and carry out their policies to address this crisis, and will remain vigilant to ensure that the steps taken by the US and ASEAN truly serve to support the Myanmar people’s aspirations for human rights, peace and democracy.