A total of 448 Myanmar and international NGOs have called on the South Korean defence minister to boycott the upcoming ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus Experts’ Working Group on Counter Terrorism being co-chaired by the Myanmar junta and Russia.
Australia and New Zealand have said they would not take part in the 20-21 July meeting to be held in Moscow.
Here is the letter released by the NGO calling for the boycott:
To: H.E. Jong-Sup Lee, Minister of National Defense, Republic of Korea
Re: Participation in the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus Experts’ Working Group on Counter
14 July 2022
We, the undersigned 448 organizations from throughout Myanmar and the world, appeal to you, as a representative of the Government of the Republic of Korea and the minister responsible for Korea’s defence engagement with ASEAN, to boycott the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus Experts’ Working Group (ADMM-Plus EWG) on Counter Terrorism, co-chaired by the Myanmar and Russian militaries. We welcome the decisions of Australia and New Zealand to not participate in the upcoming meeting scheduled for 20 – 21 July in Moscow, Russia. We welcome your government’s previous decisions to suspend all defence exchanges with the Myanmar military and ban arms exports to Myanmar, as well as the joint effort to call on other countries to halt the supply of arms to the Myanmar junta. We further request that your immediate decision is consistent with past commitments by boycotting the ADMM-Plus EWG on Counter Terrorism.
The Myanmar military has long committed international crimes under the pretext of “counter terrorism”. The most egregious case was the Myanmar military’s 2017 genocide against the Rohingya, which, according to the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, involved the launch of “clearance operations” that were supposedly aimed at the “elimination” of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. In reality, it involved the murder, massacre, torture, rape and gang rape of Rohingya, forcing over 700,000 to flee to Bangladesh under the guise of counter terrorism.
The military’s abuse of anti-terrorism law and practices continued after its illegal coup attempt. One strategy of the junta has been to attack democratic institutions and justify ongoing atrocities by designating the National Unity Government (NUG), Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) and Peoples Defence Forces (PDFs) as “terrorists”. In 2021, the Myanmar military used its cochair position of the ADMM Experts’ Working Group to legitimize its illegal junta and to seek support for its terrorism designations against the NUG, CRPH and PDFs. Its leadership of the group was also used as fodder for domestic propaganda, with photos and details of the meetings featured prominently in military-controlled media targeting a domestic audience.
Meanwhile in June 2022, the military junta announced a planned execution of four men, including two respected democracy activists, for ungrounded allegations of terrorism — rejecting a plea made by ASEAN Chair Prime Minister Hun Sen. Such actions demonstrate the junta’s total disrespect of and unwillingness to implement ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus, which demands an immediate cessation of violence and a dialogue among all parties concerned. The junta’s ongoing operations against civilians — including torture, indiscriminate attacks, airstrikes and artillery shelling, burning of villages and looting — are increasingly deploying new tactics of terror to commit widespread and systematic crimes throughout the country. This is exemplified by the junta soldiers beheading and desecrating unarmed civilians in Sagaing Region. These acts clearly constitute terror under international and national law. A body responsible for such terror and gross atrocities is devoid of legitimacy and is in no position to lead, nor participate, in the ADMM-Plus EWG on Counter Terrorism.
The Working Group’s other co-chair, Russia, is similarly in no position to lead or participate in ASEAN counter terrorism cooperation. Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine must be condemned as an attack on democracy and violations of international law and norms. Since its invasion, Ukraine has documented 15,000 suspected war crimes as of 31 May, and the situation in Ukraine has been referred to the International Criminal Court by 43 State Parties. The Ukrainian government has estimated that “at least tens of thousands” of Ukrainian civilians were killed in the first 100 days of Russia’s invasion.
Since 24 February, at least one-third of Ukrainians have been forcibly displaced. Your government’s announcement to tighten export controls of strategic items and block Russian banks from international payment systems must be in line with your approach to the Myanmar military junta.
Engagement with ADMM-Plus EWG on Counter Terrorism only emboldens the Myanmar junta and Russia to continue committing international crimes. ASEAN Defence Ministers and ASEAN-Plus Defence Ministers must take the principled step and refuse to attend the upcoming ADMM-Plus EWG on Counter Terrorism. To allow the Myanmar junta and Russia to engage in the ADMM-Plus EWG on Counter Terrorism is antithetical to the aims of the meeting and will severely damage the reputation of the ADMM-Plus EWG and ASEAN. We call on you to boycott the upcoming ADMM-Plus EWG on Counter Terrorism and take further actions to exclude the Myanmar junta and Russia from other ADMM meetings in solidarity with the peoples of Myanmar and Ukraine.