Statement 605 Views

Open letter from civil society organizations concerning ASEAN’s approach to the ongoing political, human rights and humanitarian crisis in Myanmar

October 26th, 2022  •  Author:   505 Civil Society Organizations  •  14 minute read
Featured image

*The list of signatories has been updated on 26 October 2022.

To: ASEAN Leaders

H.E. Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, Prime Minister of Brunei Darussalam
H.E. Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia
H.E. Joko Widodo, President of the Republic of Indonesia
H.E. Thongloun Sisoulith, Prime Minister of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic
H.E. Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob, Prime Minister of Malaysia
H.E. Ferdinand Romualdez Marcos, Jr., President of the Republic of the Philippines
H.E. Lee Hsien Loong, Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore
H.E. Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand
H.E. Phạm Minh Chính, Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam

26 October 2022

Subject: Open letter from civil society organizations concerning ASEAN’s approach to the ongoing political, human rights and humanitarian crisis in Myanmar

Your Excellencies,

We, the 505 undersigned Myanmar, regional and international civil society organizations, call on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (‘ASEAN’) to cease inviting all political and non-political representatives of the Myanmar military junta to all summits and meetings, and revise the mandate of the Special Envoy to Myanmar. We further call on ASEAN under the Indonesian Chairship, as a regional bloc and as individual states, to move beyond the failed Five-Point Consensus (‘5PC’), enable effective humanitarian assistance, and publicly recognize the National Unity Government.

For the past 20 months since the failed coup, ASEAN has been largely ineffective in responding to the escalating crisis in Myanmar. ASEAN’s “dialogue” demonstrates a selective approach to the 5PC and yields no results to stop the ongoing crisis in Myanmar. Despite being put on notice for non-compliance with the 5PC in a joint communique in August 2022, the junta has continued committing atrocity crimes against the Myanmar people. Just one month after the warning, the junta’s airstrikes on a school in Sagaing Region killed 11 children.

The exclusion of the junta from ASEAN Summits in October 2021 and November 2022 was a step in the right direction. We also note positive stances taken by Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines and Singapore, and welcome the bloc’s statement in July 2022. Nevertheless, any engagement with the junta is in breach of the ASEAN Charter. The crimes that are being committed by the Myanmar military amount to acts of a terrorist organization under international legal definitions and Myanmar’s domestic laws. The Myanmar military stands accused of atrocity crimes at the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, and under a universal jurisdiction case in Argentina. We are alarmed that this illegal entity holds sway in ASEAN’s actions.

Mandate of Special Envoy

Since the establishment of the desultory 5PC, the mandate of the ASEAN Special Envoy (‘SE’) has proven unsuccessful in resolving, let alone positively impacting, the worsening crisis in Myanmar. Several efforts by the SE, and by extension of ASEAN, to initiate “dialogues” and “visits” to the military junta have not actualized in any meaningful progress. Instead, such actions have condoned and emboldened the illegal junta to continue its heinous crimes with blanket impunity.

Evident in the visits by the second SE, Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, in March and June 2022, the junta has been reassured of ASEAN’s inaction and launched intense aerial attacks against civilians and spiked the death toll of children. State Counsellor, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was repeatedly given additional prison sentences, along with her economic adviser, Sean Turnell. It is a shame that, per the junta’s disapproval, in none of the visits was the SE allowed access to the State Counsellor and other arbitrarily detained parliamentarians elected in the November 2020 general elections. The SE has further failed to meet with the Acting President, Prime Minister or other officials of the National Unity Government (‘NUG’), the legitimate government of Myanmar, key ethnic revolutionary organizations (‘EROs’) and civil society organizations (‘CSOs’).

The junta was emboldened to carry out extrajudicial executions of four political activists in July despite the appeal from ASEAN Chair, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen. The executions clearly demonstrated, as Singapore’s Foreign Minister put it, “the high level of cynicism or even outright disrespect for the role of ASEAN”. We are deeply disappointed that such a reprehensible action, which may constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity, was met with no more than empty condemnation.

These imprudent engagements of the SE further caused extensive damage to the struggle of Myanmar people to end military tyranny and establish a federal democracy. Such actions stand in contrast to the 5PC’s promise to strive for a solution “in the interests of the people”. Furthermore, the vague nature of the SE mandate has so far created public confusion of whether the mandate is a political mediator, interlocutor or focused on humanitarian delivery.

Humanitarian Aid and AHA Centre

ASEAN’s ongoing cooperation and engagement with the military junta to deliver humanitarian aid through the bloc’s Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (‘AHA Centre’) has only exacerbated the humanitarian crisis. The AHA Centre, designed to tackle natural disasters, is ill-equipped to deal with a multi-dimensional political crisis. With its operating procedures, the Centre relies on the junta for access and is dictated by a board consisting of the junta’s Myanmar Task Force. Aid is being weaponized by the very perpetrators of crimes against humanity and war crimes that led to the ongoing humanitarian crisis, and of the genocide of the Rohingya in 2017. The former Executive Director of the AHA Centre stated that the junta “is unwilling to provide access to the people in line with humanitarian principles,” and called on ASEAN to remove the junta as aid partner.

Local humanitarian actors and CSOs have been effectively delivering the much-needed humanitarian assistance to communities since the failed coup, along with the NUG and EROs. Border-based CSOs have been indispensable in assisting groups in hardest-to-reach areas with financial and subsistence support. The NUG provided 2.73 billion Myanmar Kyat to internally displaced people and the Civil Disobedience Movement in a year. Meanwhile, international humanitarian organizations, UN agencies and the AHA Centre have been largely unable to reach those most in need. In his letter to the ASEAN Secretary-General, the Malaysian Foreign Minister noted that “the special [humanitarian] task force formed by ASEAN together with the junta is not working well”. With the lack of trust in the junta as a result of its ongoing campaign of terror and weaponization of aid, local aid providers are increasingly unwilling to work with the junta or organizations linked to it.

Recommendations

While Myanmar people themselves are sacrificing their lives, livelihoods and futures for the future of their young generations, ASEAN must take concrete actions to end all inhumane acts committed by the military junta. We appeal to the Indonesian President, set to assume ASEAN Chairship in 2023, to support the will of the Myanmar people.

It is imperative that ASEAN no longer holds official meetings with the junta or recognizes it and its representatives as the government of Myanmar. The bloc must bar all junta representatives, political and non-political, from all ASEAN summits and meetings, including the ASEAN Commission on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) and the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). Such disengagement must include ending defense ties with the Myanmar junta. ASEAN must officially recognize the NUG, allowing its delegation to the bloc and member states.

We strongly urge ASEAN to move beyond the 5PC and develop a plan that includes clear benchmarks and indicators of success to realistically measure progress. The plan must be based on extensive consultation with the NUG, the National Unity Consultative Council (‘NUCC’), EROs and CSOs. ASEAN must establish actionable punitive measures upon the junta’s non-compliance with the 5PC to cease the ongoing violence.

At the November Summit, we also call on ASEAN to amend the mandate of the SE to be a full-time position from 2023 onwards with a three-year term, appointed by the ASEAN Chair, and to represent and be accountable to ASEAN as a whole. The SE must have clear terms of reference not for peace-brokering, but be grounded in human rights principles, justice and accountability, and the will of the Myanmar people. The mandate must hold authority and independence to take actions unencumbered by the delay of infrequent ASEAN high-level meetings. The mandate must immediately open formal communications and engage with the NUG, the NUCC, EROs, CSOs and the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw.

On humanitarian aid, ASEAN must stop partnering with the junta and recognize that the AHA Centre cannot address the humanitarian crisis. We recommend to ASEAN to take a solidarity-based approach to facilitate cross-border aid by working in partnership with local humanitarian actors, the NUG and EROs. ASEAN members must also accept and provide protection for asylum seekers from Myanmar. All regional efforts must be based on humanitarian principles of do-no-harm, humanity and impartiality, and the agency of displaced communities.

The political, human rights and humanitarian crisis in Myanmar is not merely an “internal affair,” but a threat to regional security and stability which ASEAN vowed to protect. Without swift action, Myanmar’s neighboring countries and ASEAN states will continue to face the influx of refugees, loss of commercial interests and irreparable reputational damage. We believe that ASEAN’s credibility depends on its ability to act in a timely manner to effectively prevent the junta’s violence and destruction spilling over and destabilizing the entire region.

We CSOs remain at your disposal to ensure the bloc’s effective action in addressing the needs of Myanmar people in line with their will and aspirations.

For more information, please contact:

Signed by 505 organizations including 301 organizations who have chosen to not disclose their name: 

  1. 8888 Generation (New Zealand)
  2. Action Committee for Democracy Development (Coalition of 14 grassroots networks)
  3. Active Youths (Kalaymyo)
  4. Ah Nah Podcast – Conversation with Myanmar
  5. All Arakan CSOs Network (AACN)
  6. All Arakan CSOs Partnership
  7. All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress (AASYC)
  8. All Burma Democratic Face in New Zealand
  9. All Burma Indigenous People Alliance (ABIPA)
  10. Alliance for Democracy in Myanmar (Western USA)
  11. ALTSEAN-Burma
  12. Anti Dictatorship in Burma – DC Metropolitan Area
  13. Anyar Taw Eain
  14. Arakan Community Engagement Network (ACEN)
  15. Arakan CSO Network
  16. Arakan Rivers Network (ARN)
  17. Arakan Workers’ Organization
  18. ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR)
  19. Asia Justice and Rights (AJAR)
  20. Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC)
  21. Asian Democracy Network
  22. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  23. Asians Cultural Forum on Development Foundation (ACFOD)
  24. Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
  25. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
  26. Association Suisse – Birmanie
  27. Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization
  28. Auckland Kachin Community NZ
  29. Auckland Zomi Community
  30. Ayeyarwaddy Youth Network
  31. Back Pack Health Worker Team
  32. Bago MATA
  33. Buddhist Solidarity Association
  34. Burma Action Ireland
  35. Burma Campaign UK
  36. Burma Human Rights Network
  37. Burma Medical Association
  38. Burmese Canadian Network
  39. Burmese Community Group (Manawatu, NZ)
  40. Burmese Rohingya Welfare Organisation New Zealand
  41. Burmese Women’s Union
  42. Cambodian American and Friends for Democracy and Human Rights advocate, USA
  43. Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR)
  44. Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC Cambodia)
  45. Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
  46. Campaign for a New Myanmar
  47. Campaign for Popular Democracy (CPD)
  48. Chin Community of Auckland
  49. Chin Community SF Bay Area
  50. Chin Human Rights Organization
  51. Chin MATA
  52. Chin Resources Center
  53. CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation
  54. Civil Society Forum for Peace Network (Arakan)
  55. Community Resource Centre (CRC)
  56. Cross Cultural Foundation (CrCF)
  57. CRPH & NUG Supporters Ireland
  58. CRPH Funding Ireland
  59. Danu Youth Organization
  60. Dawei Development Association
  61. Democracy for Ethnic Minorities Organization
  62. Democracy, Peace and Women’s Organization
  63. Democratic Youth Council
  64. Educational Initiatives Myanmar
  65. ENLAWTHAI Foundation (EnLAW)
  66. Equality Myanmar
  67. ETOs Watch Coalition
  68. Free Burma Action Committee – Northern California
    1. Free Burma Action Committee (San Francisco & Bay Area)
    2. Free Burma Action Committee (Central Valley)
    3. Free Burma Action Committee (Sacramento)
    4. Free Burma Action Committee – Chico
  69. Federal FM Mandalay
  70. Federal Myanmar Benevolence Group (NZ)
  71. Foundation of Khmer Samaki, USA
  72. Free Burma Campaign (South Africa) (FBC- SA)
  73. Free Myanmar Inc.
  74. Friends Without Borders
  75. Future Light Center
  76. Future Thanlwin
  77. Generation Wave
  78. Grass-root People
  79. Green Network (Myeik)
  80. Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)
  81. Human Rights Educators Network
  82. Human Rights Foundation of Monland
  83. Human Rights Lawyers Association
  84. In Defense of Human Rights and Dignity Movement (iDEFEND) Philippines
  85. India for Myanmar
  86. Info Birmanie
  87. Initiatives for International Dialogue
  88. Inlihtan Peninsula Tenasserim
  89. Institute for Asian Democracy
  90. Inter Pares
  91. International Campaign for the Rohingya
  92. Jagriti Child and Youth Concern Nepal
  93. Just Associates Southeast Asia (JASS SEA)
  94. Justice For Myanmar
  95. Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
  96. Karen Association of Ireland
  97. Karen Human Rights Group
  98. Karen Peace Support Network
  99. Karen Women’s Organization
  100. Karen Youth Ireland
  101. Karenni Civil Society Network
  102. Karenni National Women’s Organization
  103. Karenni Society New Zealand
  104. Kayaw Women’s Organization
  105. Keng Tung Youth
  106. KontraS Indonesia
  107. Kyae Lak Myay
  108. Kyaukse University Students’ Union
  109. La communauté BIRMANE de France
  110. Let’s Help Each Other
  111. Los Angeles Myanmar Movement (LA2M)
  112. Mandalay Youth Association
  113. Me Boun Foundation
  114. Metta Campaign Mandalay
  115. Migrant Workers Rights Network (MWRN)
  116. Migrant Working Group (MWG)
  117. Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute Foundation, Inc
  118. Minority Affairs Institute – MAI (Myanmar)
  119. Mon State Development Center
  120. Monywa People’s Strike Steering Committee
  121. Myanmar Accountability Project (MAP)
  122. Myanmar Alliance for Transparency and Accountability
  123. Myanmar anti-military coup movement in New Zealand
  124. Myanmar Campaign Network
  125. Myanmar Community Group Christchurch New Zealand
  126. Myanmar Community Group Dunedin New Zealand
  127. Myanmar Democratic Force in Denmark
  128. Myanmar Emergency Fund ( Canada )
  129. Myanmar Engineers – New Zealand
  130. Myanmar Gonye (New Zealand)
  131. Myanmar People Alliance (Shan State)
  132. Myanmar Students’ Union in New Zealand
  133. Myaung Education Network
  134. Myaung Medical Team
  135. Nelson Myanmar Community Group New Zealand
  136. Network for Advocacy Action
  137. Network for Human Rights Documentation Network – Burma (ND-Burma)
  138. New Zealand Doctors for NUG
  139. New Zealand Karen Association
  140. New Zealand Zo Community Inc.
  141. No Business With Genocide
  142. Non-Binary Thailand
  143. Northern California Hong Kong Club
  144. Nway Oo Guru Lay Myar
  145. Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica
  146. Overseas Mon Association, New Zealand
  147. Oway Institute
  148. Padauk Phue – Blooming Padauk
  149. Pakokku Youth Development Council
  150. Peace and Culture Foundation
  151. Peace Working Committee (PWC)
  152. People’s Empowerment Foundation (PEF)
  153. People’s Goal
  154. Progressive Voice
  155. Protection International
  156. Pyithu Gonye (New Zealand)
  157. Rvwang Community Association New Zealand
  158. Save and Care Organization for Ethnic Women at Border Areas
  159. Save Myanmar – USA
  160. Save Myanmar Fundraising Group (New Zealand)
  161. Sea Junction
  162. Second Tap Root
  163. Shan Community (New Zealand)
  164. Shan MATA
  165. Shape-Sea
  166. Sisters 2 Sisters
  167. Social Garden
  168. Social Action for Community and Development (Cambodia)
  169. Social Program Aid for Civic Education (SPACE)
  170. Southeast Asia Freedom of Expression Network (SAFEnet)
  171. Southern Youth Development Organization
  172. Spirit in Education Movement (SEM)
  173. Support group for Democracy in Myanmar (Netherlands)
  174. Swedish Burma Committee
  175. Swedish Foundation for Human Rights
  176. Synergy – Social Harmony Organization
  177. Ta’ang Women’s Organization
  178. Taiwan Association for Human Rights
  179. Tanintharyi MATA
  180. Tanitharyi People’s Voice
  181. Tanitharyi Women’s Network
  182. Thai Action Committee for Democracy in Burma (TACDB)
  183. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)
  184. The Ladies
  185. The Mekong Butterfly
  186. The Regional Center for Social Science and Sustainable Development
  187. Thint Myat Lo Thu Myar Organization
  188. Together Thanlyin
  189. S. Campaign for Burma
  190. Union for Civil Liberty (UCL)
  191. US Advocacy Coalition for Myanmar (USACM)
    1. Campaign for a New Myanmar
    2. Students for Free Burma (SFB)
    3. Freedom for Burma
    4. International Campaign for The Rohingya
    5. Helping Hands for Burma (H2B)
    6. Global Movement for Myanmar Democracy (GM4MD)
    7. Chin Leaders of Today &Tomorrow
  192. Vorapat Veerapattanakup, Human Rights Activism
  193. Women Advocacy Coalition – Myanmar
  194. Women’s League of Burma
  195. Women’s Peace Network
  196. Yangon Medical Network
  197. Youths for Community – Myaung
  198. ၈၈ မျိုးဆက်ငြိမ်းချမ်းရေးနှင့်ပွင့်လင်းလူ့အဖွဲ့အစည်း(မြိတ်ခရိုင်)
  199. ခုနစ်စဉ်ကြယ်အဖွဲ့
  200. တူမီး-တော်လှန်ရေးစာစဉ်
  201. ဒို့မြေကွန်ရက် (LIOH)
  202. ပြည်သူ့လှုပ်ရှားမှုဦးဆောင်အဖွဲ့-ပုလောမြို့နယ်
  203. ပွင့်ဖြူလယ်ယာမြေကွန်ရက်
  204. မြစ်ကွေ့ – လူထုတော်လှန်ရေးစာစဉ်

*The list of signatories has been updated on 26 October 2022.


Download PDF in English I Burmese