JAKARTA – Parliamentarians from Southeast Asia are urging the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair to Myanmar, the Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn, to meet representatives of the National Unity Government (NUG) of Myanmar, after his recent trip to the country, in which he met Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other members of the military junta that continues to try to rule the country after its illegal coup d’état of February last year.
Formed by MPs elected before the military takeover and widely respected leaders from civil society and the ethnic minorities, the NUG was established in April 2022 to oppose the self-styled State Administration Council (SAC) led by Min Aung Hlaing. The NUG is supported by the vast majority of the Myanmar people.
“Most Myanmar citizens see the NUG as their legitimate government, and that is how the international community at large, and ASEAN in particular, should regard it. If Mr. Sokhonn is serious about implementing ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus, he should publicly engage the NUG, rather than limit himself to meet the leaders of an illegal junta that is committing all kinds of international crimes and throwing the country into chaos while attempting to cement its power,” said Tom Villarin, former MP from the Philippines and Board Member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).
The Five-Point Consensus on Myanmar was signed on 24 April 2021 by all ASEAN leaders and Min Aung Hlaing. The Consensus prescribes the delivery of humanitarian aid, and calls for an immediate cessation of violence, as well as the commencement of a dialogue process between all the parties involved in the conflict, to be facilitated by the ASEAN Special Envoy appointed by the group’s rotatory Chair.
Since Cambodia assumed the chairmanship of ASEAN this year, its leaders have met Min Aung Hlaing and other representatives of the SAC on several occasions, including a visit by the Prime Minister, Hun Sen, to Myanmar in January; but has never met with any member of the NUG, most of whom are in hiding or exiled. As Chair of ASEAN this year, Cambodia should hold conversations with the democratic leaders of Myanmar, by inviting them to meet outside Myanmar or online if necessary, given the challenges involved in meeting them in their own country, APHR said.
The SAC has utterly failed to implement any of the five points included in the consensus and the situation has steadily deteriorated in Myanmar. With at least 2,088 people killed by the junta; over 11,000 political prisoners, a record number in Myanmar’s history; and over one million internally displaced people in the country, Min Aung Hlaing and his men are responsible for “systematic and widespread human rights violations and abuses” that may amount to “war crimes and crimes against humanity,” according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
“We at APHR have repeatedly called on ASEAN to hold Min Aung Hlaing and his criminal junta accountable for their crimes and for not abiding to the Consensus they signed to. The military is the main source of Myanmar’s woes and instability, and ASEAN member states should not accept its illegal rule as a fait accompli. Instead, they should engage and support the NUG and Myanmar’s civil society if they truly want to put the country back on the path towards democracy and prevent it from becoming a failed state at their doorstep,” said Villarin.