US withdraws from ASEAN counter terrorism meeting

July 20th, 2022  •  Author:   Myanmar Now  •  3 minute read
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US Department of Defense says Russia and Myanmar regime “in clear breach of ASEAN values”

The US Department of Defense has withdrawn from the two-day ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM) Plus Experts’ Working Group on Counter Terrorism, co-chaired by the Myanmar military. The meeting opens today in Moscow.

Department of Defense spokesperson Lt Col Martin Meiners told Myanmar Now, “Russia and the Myanmar military regime have consistently used their co-chairmanship… to propagandize and justify the atrocities they are continuing to commit against innocent people, and to imply support for these atrocities by the ADMM Plus and its members”.

Lt Col Meiners said the conduct of Russia and the Myanmar junta breaches ASEAN values and their responsibilities as co-chairs of the working group.

In meetings last year, the Myanmar military used their co-chairmanship to assert that groups opposed to its rule, including the shadow National Unity Government and its armed wing, the People’s Defence Force, should be regarded as terrorist organisations. Disagreements over Myanmar’s role were revealed in a freedom of information request that the activist group Justice For Myanmar submitted to Australia’s Department of Defence.

Lt Col Meiners reiterated US support for ASEAN centrality but warned against the abuse of ADMM Plus meetings. “We urge all partners to use ADMM Plus mechanisms to pursue practical defence cooperation and dialogue in good faith, not to deliver propaganda,” he said.

The last-minute US withdrawal comes amid mounting pressure for a boycott of the meeting. Australia and New Zealand have also withdrawn their participation.

On July 14, 448 civil society organisations sent open letters to the USA, Japan and South Korea urging a boycott of the meeting and for the exclusion of Russia and the Myanmar junta in ADMM.

Japan and South Korea did not respond to a request for comment from Myanmar Now.

The ADMM Plus group includes the 10 member states of ASEAN, as well as Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, and the United States.

Khin Ohmar of the advocacy group Progressive Voice welcomed the US decision to not participate in the meeting and called on ASEAN to ban the Myanmar military from its meetings.

“By allowing Russia and the Myanmar military to co-chair this meeting, ASEAN is only encouraging this nefarious tie to deepen and emboldening the military junta to further commit atrocity crimes. At this point, the junta is stripping ASEAN of any reputation it may have left as a regional block”, she said.

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