Too Many Paper Tigers

August 15th, 2022  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  8 minute read
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The failure to act beyond words and condemnation only emboldens the junta and causes frustration for the revolution, leaving them to figure out who their real friends are among the ‘international community.’

The 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in Phnom Penh concluded with more dithering over how to address the crisis in Myanmar caused by the murderous military junta. Meanwhile, the junta itself has deepened its ties with Russia – from whom Myanmar is buying many of the weapons it uses to kill innocent people – by receiving a visit from Foreign Minister Lavrov. It is clear that until the international community, including ASEAN as a bloc and its individual members, take more substantive, meaningful action to support the Spring Revolution and to impose punitive measures against the junta, its campaign of violence will continue unabated and unpunished.

The ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting ended with a communique stating that ASEAN were “deeply disappointed by the limited progress in and lack of commitment of the Nay Pyi Taw authorities to the timely and complete implementation of the Five Point Consensus.”  They recommended that at the next ASEAN Summit, in November, ASEAN leaders must assess whether or not the Myanmar military has demonstrated that it is making progress on the consensus that was agreed upon in April 2021. If the next three months goes the same way of the past year and four months since the consensus was agreed, in which the military junta has shown zero commitment to implementing any of the five steps, and has in fact flagrantly flaunted what has been a dead horse of a policy, then the upcoming ASEAN Summit must be a turning point for more substantive action from the bloc.

Some member states, including Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, have expressed their frustrations at ASEAN’s response. For example, at a recent panel, the Malaysian Foreign Minister, Saifuddin Abdullah, has questioned the utility of the Five Point Consensus, stating that the Myanmar military is making a “mockery” of it. Other countries within the bloc, including Singapore, reportedly wanted a stronger line taken in the communique, but such language was excluded. It must not be forgotten that Myanmar and regional civil society has consistently called for the bloc to move beyond the Five Point Consensus towards more concrete action that would provide a more effective deterrent for the junta to end the violence.

One step that ASEAN countries can take is to formally recognize the National Unity Government as the legitimate government of Myanmar, reflecting the reality of the group’s makeup of elected lawmakers and ethnic leaders from across the country’s political spectrum. And while some moves have been made towards their recognition, for example with the opening of a representative office in Australia last week, adding to their offices in the Czech Republic, France, Japan, Norway South Korea, and the UK, more official engagement, including by ASEAN, is long overdue. In a recent speech by the NUG’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Zin Mar Aung urged the international community to “start by talking with us instead of either creepingly engaging and legitimizing the junta or issuing ineffective statements of regret.” The failure to act beyond words and condemnation only emboldens the junta and causes frustration for the revolution, leaving them to figure out who their real friends are among the ‘international community.’

The US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, in his recent meeting with ASEAN, also pushed on the bloc to do more to “press the regime to end its brutal violence,” also stating how “we also have to increase economic pressure to do more to stop the flow of arms and revenue to the regime, insist on accountability for the atrocities committed.” Yet, the US could also do much more. It must sanction the Myanma Oil and Gas Enterprise, a military-controlled entity that provides it with the foreign currency it uses to buy weapons and surveillance technology from the likes of Russia. The US Government could also release the $1 billion in foreign reserves held in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York that were frozen immediately after the coup attempt. This money belongs to the people of Myanmar, and while it being frozen was a welcome, strategic move to block that money going to the junta, this could now be redirected to the NUG, the legitimate government of Myanmar to use for essential public services and functions of the state, as it has the mandate to do.

As the former Thai Foriegn Minister, Kasit Piromya recently argued, ASEAN “cannot assert the principle of non-interference as an excuse for inaction or neutrality,” a principle that was supposedly designed to protect the sovereignty of member nations. He reminds us that it is in fact the military itself which is the biggest threat to the sovereignty of the Myanmar people, “acting as a brutal force of occupation, throwing the country into chaos with potentially destabilizing effects beyond its borders.” His sentiments go for not just ASEAN but the wider international community. Targeted sanctions that cut revenue from the junta, a global arms embargo, financial support to the Spring Revolution including humanitarian aid, recognition of the NUG are all actions that are achievable, strategic and valuable for the Spring Revolution, as well as morally imperative. Hiding behind a failed Five Point Consensus, or placing trust that the junta will make steps towards progress have been the status quo for far too long, and must stop.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

Myanmar: Detainees Tortured to Crush Opposition to Coup

By Amnesty International

Southeast Asian MPs Urge ASEAN to Put Strong Pressure on the Myanmar Junta at Foreign Ministers Meeting

By ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights

The People of Myanmar Call on the G7 to Stop Writing Letters of Concern and Take Action

By Blood Money Campaign, General Strike Committee of Nationalities and Sitt Nyein Pann Foundation

Myanmar Journalist Maung Maung Myo Sentenced to 6 Years in Prison

By Committee to Protect Journalists

Time for the Emergence of a New National Human Rights Commission Representing the People of Myanmar

By CSO Working Group on Independent National Human Rights Institution (Burma/Myanmar) and 32 Myanmar civil society organizations

မြန်မာနိုင်ငံတွင် ပြည်သူလူထုကို အမှန်တကယ် ကိုယ်စားပြုသော နိုင်ငံအဆင့် လူ့အခွင့်အရေးကော်မရှင် အသစ်တစ်ရပ် ပေါ်ပေါက်ချိန်တန်ပြီ

By CSO Working Group on Independent National Human Rights Institution (Burma/Myanmar) and 32 Myanmar civil society organizations

Interaction Statement Condemning the Cxecution of Pro-democracy Activists in Myanmar

By InterAction

New ILO Estimates Show Myanmar Remains Deeply Affected by Job Losses in First Half of 2022

By International Labour Organization

Money Laundering Risk in Myanmar Crony Airline MAI’s Transaction with Australian Mining Company

By Justice For Myanmar

McConnell Statement on Burma and Secretary Blinken’s Asia Trip

By Mitch McConnell Republican Leader

အကြမ်းဖက်စစ်အုပ်စု၏ နိုင်ငံရေးအကျဉ်းသားများအပေါ် သေဒဏ်စီရင်နေခြင်းကို ဆန့်ကျင်သည့် ထောင်တွင်းအစာငတ်ခံဆန္ဒပြခြင်းများနှင့် ပတ်သက်သော သဘောထားထုတ်ပြန်ကြေညာချက်

By National Unity Consultative Council

This Year’s Summit Make or Break for ASEAN on Myanmar

By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

Going local: A Fresh Start for Displaced Communities in Myanmar

By United Nations Myanmar

Dengue in Rohingya Refugee/Forcibly Displaced Myanmar Nationals (FDMN) Camps in Cox’s Bazar – Bangladesh

By World Health Organization



Burma Coup Watch for the Month of July 2022: Junta’s executions spark global outcry as opposition promises payback

By ALTSEAN-Burma, Asia Democracy Network, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Burma Human Rights Network, Initiatives for International Dialogue, International Federation for Human Rights, Progressive Voice and US Campaign for Burma

Myanmar: 15 Days Felt Like 15 Years: Torture in Detention Since the Myanmar Coup

By Amnesty International

၁၅ ရက်က ၁၅နှစ်လို ခံစားရတယ်၊ အာဏာသိမ်းပြီးနောက် မြန်မာစစ်တပ်၏ ဖမ်းဆီးညာဉ်းပန်းနှိပ်စက်မှုများ

By Amnesty International

The Rise of Pro-Junta Militias in Southeastern Burma

By Human Rights Foundation of Monland

Human Rights Situation in Mon State, Karen State & Tanintharyi Region, July 2022

By Human Rights Foundation of Monland

Coming to Terms with Myanmar’s Russia Embrace: Crisis Group Asia Briefing N°173, 4 August 2022

By International Crisis Group

Employment in Myanmar in the First Half of 2022: A Rapid Assessment

By International Labour Organization

UNICEF Myanmar Country Office Humanitarian Situation Report No. 6: 1 January to 30 June 2022

By United Nations Children’s Fund

Myanmar Emergency Update (as of 1 August 2022)

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

UNHCR Representation in Myanmar – Fact Sheet August 2022

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

On-The-Ground in Burma: Issue 18

By US Campaign for Burma

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”