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ASEAN Remiss in Failing to Censure the Military Junta

May 11th, 2023  •  Author:   Special Advisory Council for Myanmar  •  3 minute read
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11 May 2023: The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Leaders must identify the military junta as the primary source of violence in Myanmar and actively support international justice efforts if they are genuine about wanting to end the crisis and see perpetrators of alleged violations of international law in Myanmar held to account, says the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M).

In a statement issued on 10 May 2023, ASEAN Leaders condemned an attack on a humanitarian and diplomatic convoy in Myanmar and underlined that the perpetrators must be held accountable.

The Leaders were referring to an attack on a convoy of vehicles transporting officials from the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) and ASEAN Monitoring Team, including diplomats from Indonesia and Singapore. The team came under fire while under military escort on 7 May 2023 in Taunggyi District, Shan State, eastern Myanmar.

Accountability and an end to impunity are essential to resolving the crisis in Myanmar. The military is alleged to have committed the most serious crimes under international law in Myanmar over many decades, including possible genocide against the Rohingya in 2016 and 2017, and crimes against humanity and war crimes following its attempted coup of February 2021, including the Pazigyi massacre of 11 April 2023. All signs indicate that the military junta itself is responsible for the attack on the ASEAN convoy this week.

The ASEAN Leaders’ words are no more than empty rhetoric if they fail to identify the junta as the cause of violence and suffering in Myanmar and are not backed-up by action from ASEAN Member States to pursue justice through international mechanisms, as accountability in Myanmar is not possible under the current conditions.

Myanmar’s courts are under the control of the military and as such are not independent, and justice and the rule of law are non-existent.  Courts in areas of Myanmar controlled by the National Unity Government (NUG), Ethnic Resistance Organisations and other resistance authorities are under-resourced and face capacity and other constraints due to the military’s constant attacks against the population.

ASEAN Member States should provide diplomatic support to the NUG and its efforts to advance international justice including through the International Criminal Court (ICC). They should urge the United Nations (UN) Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the ICC, or, if the Security Council fails to act, then pursue the establishment of a special court for Myanmar.

The military junta’s atrocities against the people of Myanmar escalated throughout 2022 and have escalated further still in the first half of 2023. International leaders are failing in their responsibilities to the Myanmar people if they continue to hide behind meaningless words. It is long past time they act against the military junta to end its violence and protect the Myanmar people.

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