Statement 753 Views

Open letter: Seeking confirmation that Myanmar military junta members will not be present at the upcoming ASEAN-Japan Special Meeting of Justice Ministers (AJSMJ) and ASEAN-G7 Justice Ministers’ Interface

July 4th, 2023  •  Author:   411 Civil Society Organizations  •  15 minute read
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To:

Government of Japan, Ministry of Justice
Ken Saitō, Minister for Justice
[email protected]
Office of the ASEAN-Japan and G7 Justice Ministers’ Meeting Organizing Committee
[email protected]
International Division, Media Desk
[email protected]

Cc:

Government of Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Hayashi Yoshimasa, Minister for Foreign Affairs
[email protected]
Southeast & Southwest Asia Affairs Department
Yutaka Arima, Director
[email protected]
International Cooperation Department
[email protected]

National Unity Government of Myanmar, Ministry of Justice
U Thein Oo, Minister for Justice
[email protected]

National Unity Government of Myanmar, Ministry for Foreign Affairs
H.E Daw Zin Mar Aung, Minister for Foreign Affairs
[email protected]

National Unity Government of Myanmar, Representative Office – Japan office
Saw Ba Hla Thein
[email protected]

4 July 2023

Subject: Seeking confirmation that Myanmar military junta members will not be present at the upcoming ASEAN-Japan Special Meeting of Justice Ministers (AJSMJ) and ASEAN-G7 Justice Ministers’ Interface

Dear Ministers and staff,

We are writing this open letter to you on behalf of 411 Myanmar, regional and international civil society organizations working together to protect Myanmar people’s right to democratic representation internationally. We call on your ministry to publicly affirm your support for the people of Myanmar in relation to the upcoming ASEAN-Japan Special Meeting of Justice Ministers (AJSMJ) and ASEAN Law and Justice Ministers Interface with G7 Justice Ministers that you will host in Tokyo on July 6 and 7, 2023.

Specifically, we are seeking your confirmation that:

  • the people of Myanmar will be represented in these meetings by their democratically elected government, the National Unity Government; and
  • the illegitimate military junta that is currently illegally occupying many of Myanmar’s national institutions of government will be banned from the meeting.

As you are aware, a democratic general election was held in Myanmar on November 8, 2020. In a landslide victory, the voters elected a government led by the incumbent National League for Democracy party. Independent national and international election observers unanimously concluded[i] [ii] [iii] that the election was free and fair, and the result represented the will of the Myanmar people.

Yet, on February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military launched an illegal coup attempt. Since then, an illegal and illegitimate military junta has seized multiple institutions of government, including domestic ministries and overseas embassies, and attempted to pose as the government of Myanmar. The junta refers to itself as the ‘State Administrative Council’ (SAC), even though it has neither the authority to hold government office nor effective control over the majority of Myanmar’s territories, which are under the administration of the democratic resistance movement and ethnic administration bodies.[iv]

Under the guise of the SAC, the military junta has launched a nationwide campaign of heinous crimes against the people of Myanmar in an attempt to suppress and control them. To date, the military has killed 3,744 people and imprisoned 19,312 more,[v] including the President, State Counsellor, elected members of parliament, journalists, pro-democracy activists, religious leaders and other individuals.

The remaining elected members of the government and parliament (the ‘Pyidaungsu Hluttaw’ in Burmese) formed the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH) and then the National Unity Government (NUG) based on the mandate gained from the 2020 election results.

The military has committed massacres, indiscriminate airstrikes, artillery shelling, torture, sexual and gender-based violence and mass arson. As a result of these crimes, over 1.5 million people have fled their homes[vi] since the attempted coup and tens of thousands more have been forced to flee to neighboring countries. Such atrocities amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, and these have been committed by the same military that stands accused of genocide and other gross crimes against the Rohingya before the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court and in the universal jurisdiction case in Argentina.

The Myanmar military junta’s ability to gain and retain power depends on violence, coercion, access to funds, arms and other resources, and importantly, the blanket impunity it has enjoyed through the absence of overdue justice and accountability. Further, when foreign governments engage with the military junta as though it were a government, this risks significant harms for the people of Myanmar, including:

  • decisions being made on behalf of Myanmar people that are not in their interests;
  • legitimizing the Myanmar military junta and assisting their illegal attempts to appear as a government; and
  • assisting the military junta in its illegal (and to date unsuccessful) quest to take full control of the country.

The Ministry of Justice has already taken steps to support the people of Myanmar when you publicly stated that your assistance to the Union Attorney General’s Office (UAGO) and the Supreme Court of the Union of Myanmar has been suspended since the military’s attempted coup in 2021.[vii] These efforts have been much appreciated by the people of Myanmar.

Meanwhile, we understand that the ASEAN-Japan Special Meeting of Justice Ministers (AJSMJ) is the first meeting of this type within the Ministry of Justice’s “Justice Affairs Diplomacy” initiative that aims to promote fundamental values such as the rule of law and respect for human rights in the international community. We also understand that the meeting will be held under the theme “Advancing ASEAN-Japan Cooperation to Promote the Rules of Law: Towards a New Phase Beyond the 50th Year of Friendship and Cooperation”.[viii] With these aims in mind, we request that you consider the following when confirming the participants in this meeting:

  • it must be understood that the military junta is currently illegally and illegitimately occupying the institutions of national government in Myanmar and is not, by any definition, a government;
  • Thida Oo, the military junta-appointed ‘minister for legal affairs and union attorney general’, has been sanctioned by the United States, United Kingdom and Canada for undermining democracy and the rule of law;[ix]
  • Tun Tun Oo, the military junta-appointed ‘supreme court chief justice,’ has been sanctioned by the United States and Canada for undermining democracy and the rule of law; [x]
  • the military has engaged in widespread and systematic extrajudicial killings, torture, sexual violence, arbitrary detention and imprisonment, severe restrictions on Myanmar people’s access to justice;
  • the military’s atrocities against the people of Myanmar meet the definition of terrorism under international counter-terrorism treaties and domestic law;[xi]
  • there is no evidence that the military junta has ever adhered to the rule of law in the past or will do so in the future.

Thus, it would be an affront to democracy and the people of Myanmar to include military junta members in a meeting promoting the rule of law.

In consideration of the above, we kindly request that you ensure that Japan does not provide political support and false legitimacy to the Myanmar military junta by banning its representatives from the ASEAN-Japan Special Meeting of Justice Ministers.

Noting that other significant Japan-ASEAN meetings are also regularly scheduled by your ministry, we are seeking your confirmation that the people of Myanmar will be represented by their democratically elected government, the National Unity Government (NUG), and not by the illegitimate military junta, at all other ASEAN-Japan meetings which you will host.

This request echoes the recommendation of the United Nations Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in Myanmar[xii] who urges that “Member States who support human rights, democracy, and the aspirations of the people of Myanmar publicly reject the SAC’s false claim as a legitimate government and instead recognize the NUG as the legitimate representative of the people of Myanmar.” Your decision to ensure that the people of Myanmar are represented by their democratically elected government, not the illegal military junta, would be in line with the Ministry for Justice’s decision to cut assistance to Myanmar following the junta’s attempted coup in 2021 as well as some recent decisions of ASEAN not to invite representatives of the military junta to high-level meetings.[xiii] [xiv]

The Government of Japan must take significant steps to hold the Myanmar military accountable for its heinous crimes and bring justice and accountability for the people of Myanmar. The people of Myanmar depend on powerful members of the international community such as the Government of Japan to take all necessary actions to ensure that they and their legitimate government receive the relevant political and technical support. Such key actions include banning junta members from joining internationally-recognized inter-governmental forums.

The democratically elected National Unity Government can be contacted via the details provided on their official website: https://www.nugmyanmar.org/en/. The Minister for Justice, U Thein Oo, can be contacted at [email protected] and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, H.E Daw Zin Mar Aung, can be contacted at [email protected]. The National Unity Government also has a representative in Japan, Saw Ba Hla Thein, [email protected], with whom we would encourage you to formulate a relationship if you have not done so already. If you require further information about the current situation in Myanmar, and/or assistance in distinguishing legitimate government representatives of Myanmar from illegal military junta members, we remain at your disposal to assist in this process.

We await your response with much anticipation and will continue to monitor whether your actions support the people of Myanmar or the brutal and illegitimate military junta.

Sincerely,

Ko Ye
Defend Myanmar Democracy
+66 816 490 228 (Signal)
[email protected]

Khin Ohmar
Progressive Voice
[email protected]

Myint Swe
Federation of Workers’ Union of the Burmese Citizen in Japan
+81 08041556099 | [email protected]

Saw Alex
+48 728 027 952 (Signal)
[email protected]

This letter is endorsed by 411 organizations representing Myanmar, regional and international civil society, including 214 organizations which have chosen not to disclose their names.

List of organizations:

  1. 5/ of Zaya State Strike
  2. Action Committee for Democracy Development (Coalition of 14 grassroots networks
  3. Action Committee of Basic Education Students (ACBES)
  4. Active Youths Kalaymyo
  5. Ah Nah Podcast – Conversations with Myanmar
  6. All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress
  7. All Arakan Youth Organization Network
  8. All Aung Myay Thar San Schools Strike Force
  9. All Burma Federation of Student Unions (Monywa District)
  10. All Burma Indigenous People Alliance (ABIPA)
  11. Alliance of Students’ Union – Yangon (ASU-Yangon)
  12. ALTSEAN-Burma
  13. Anti-coup Forces Coordination Committee (ACFCC -Mandalay)
  14. Anti-Junta Alliance Yangon-AJAY
  15. Arakan CSO Network
  16. Arakan Rohingya Development Association-Australia Inc
  17. Asia Pacific Solidarity Coalition (APSOC)
  18. Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
  19. Assistance Association for Political Prisoners
  20. Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters
  21. Association Suisse-Birmanie
  22. Athan – Freedom of Expression Activist Organization
  23. Aung San Suu Kyi Park Norway
  24. A-Yar-Taw People Strike
  25. Ayeyawady Youth Network
  26. Basic Education General Strike Committee (BEGSC)
  27. Basic Education Worker Unions – Steering Committee (BEWU-SC)
  28. BCC စစ်ကိုင်းတိုင်း
  29. Burma Action Ireland
  30. Burma Campaign UK
  31. Burma Human Rights Network
  32. Burmese Women’s Union
  33. CDM Medical Network (CDMMN)
  34. Chanmyatharzi Township People’s Strike
  35. Chaung Oo Township Youth Strike Committee
  36. Chin Community in Norway
  37. Chin Human Rights Organization
  38. Chindwin (West) Villages Women Strike
  39. Civil Information Network (CIN)
  40. Civil Society Organizations Coordination Committee (Monywa)
  41. Coalition Strike Committee – Dawei
  42. Co-operative University Mandalay Students’ Strike
  43. Creative Home
  44. CRPH & NUG Supporters Ireland
  45. CRPH Funding Ireland
  46. CRPH Support Group, Norway and member organizations
  47. CRPH, NUG Support Team Germany- Deutschland
  48. Daung Sitthe Strike
  49. Dawei (Ashaetaw) Women Strike
  50. Democracy, Peace and Women’s Organization
  51. Democratic Party for a New Society, Norway
  52. Depayin Township Revolution Steering Committee
  53. Depayin Women Strike
  54. Doh Atu – Ensemble pour le Myanmar
  55. Dream Hope Goals Media Group
  56. Educational Initiatives Prague
  57. Equality Myanmar
  58. Ethnic Youth General Strike Committee (Mandalay)
  59. Federation of Workers’ Union of the Burmese Citizen in Japan
  60. Former Political Prisoners and New Generation Group – Monywa
  61. Free Rohingya Coalition
  62. Freedom and Labor Action Group (FLAG
  63. Future Light Center
  64. Future Thanlwin
  65. Gangaw Women Strike
  66. General Strike Collaboration Committee (GSCC)
  67. General Strike Committee of Basic and Higher Education (GSCBHE)
  68. General Strike Committee of Nationalities (GSCN)
  69. Grass-root People
  70. Human Rights Educators’ Network
  71. Human Rights Foundation of Monland
  72. India for Myanmar
  73. Industries Strike
  74. Info Birmanie
  75. Initiatives for International Dialogue
  76. Inlihtan Peninsula Tanintharyi
  77. International Association, Myanmar – Switzerland (IAMS)
  78. Kachin Association Norway
  79. Kachin Student Union
  80. Kachin Women’s Association Thailand
  81. Kalay Township Strike Force
  82. Kalay Women Strike
  83. Karen Human Rights Group
  84. Karen Peace Support Network – KPSN
  85. Karen Swedish Community (KSC)
  86. Karen Women’s Organization
  87. Karenni Association – Norway
  88. Karenni Civil Society Network
  89. Kayan Women’s Organization
  90. K’cho Ethnic Association
  91. Keng Tung Youth
  92. Kyain Seikgyi Spring Revolution Leading Committee
  93. Kyaukse University Students’ Union
  94. Kyauktada Strike Committe
  95. Latpadaung Region Strike Committee
  96. Let’s Help Each Other
  97. LGBT Alliance
  98. LGBT Alliance Myanmar (Kalay Region)
  99. LGBT Alliance Myanmar (Kyaukse Region)
  100. LGBT Community Yangon
  101. LGBT Union – Mandalay
  102. MAGGA Initiative
  103. Magway People’s Revolution Committee
  104. Maharaungmyay Township People’s Strike
  105. Mandalar University Students’ Strike
  106. Mandalay Alliance Coalition Strike
  107. Mandalay Medical Family (MFM)
  108. Mandalay Regional Youth Association (MRYA)
  109. Mandalay Strike Force (MSF)
  110. Mandalay Women Strike
  111. Mandalay Youth Strike
  112. Mandalay-based People’s Strike
  113. Mandalay-Based University Students’ Unions (MDY_SUs)
  114. MATA စစ်ကိုင်းတိုင်း
  115. MayMyo Strike Force
  116. Metta Campaign
  117. Minority Affairs Institute
  118. Monywa LGBT Strike
  119. Monywa People’s Strike Steering Committee
  120. Monywa Women Strike
  121. Monywa-Amyint Road Strike Leading Committee
  122. Monywa-Amyint Road Women Strike
  123. Multi-Religions  Strike
  124. Muslim Youth Network
  125. Mya Taung Strike
  126. Myanmar Action Group Denmark
  127. Myanmar Campaign Network
  128. Myanmar Community in Norway
  129. Myanmar Diaspora Group Finland
  130. Myanmar Hindu Community – Norway
  131. Myanmar Institute of Information Technology Students’ Strike
  132. Myanmar Labor Alliance (MLA)
  133. Myanmar People Alliance (Shan State)
  134. Myaung Youth Network
  135. Myingyan Civillian Movement Committee
  136. National League for Democracy (Monywa Township)
  137. Netherlands-Myanmar Solidarity Platform
  138. Network for Human Rights Documentation Burma (ND-Burma)
  139. Network of University Student Unions – Monywa
  140. NLD Organization Committee (International) Norway
  141. No.12 Basic Education Branch High School (Maharaungmyay) Students’ Union
  142. Norway Falam Community
  143. Norway Matu Community
  144. Norway Rawang Community
  145. NRFF – New Rehmonnya Federated Force
  146. Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica
  147. Olive Organization
  148. Padauk Finland-Myanmar Association
  149. Pale Township People’s Strike Steering Committee
  150. Progressive Voice
  151. Pyi Gyi Tagon Strike Force
  152. Representative Committee of University Teacher Associations (RC of UTAs)
  153. Rohingya Community in Norway
  154. Samgha Sammaga-Mandalay
  155. Save and Care Organization for Women at Ethnic Women at Border Areas
  156. Seinpann Strike
  157. Shan MATA
  158. Shwe Pan Kone People`s Strike Steering Committee
  159. Sitt Nyein Pann Foundation
  160. Southern Dragon Myanmar
  161. Southern Youth Development Organization
  162. Spring Revolution Myanmar Muslim Network
  163. Ta’ang Women’s Organization
  164. Tamar Institute for Development
  165. Tanintharyi MATA
  166. Tanintharyi Nationalities Congress
  167. Taze Strike Commitee
  168. Taze Women Strike
  169. Tenasserim Students Unions Network – TSUN
  170. Thakhin Kodaw Mhine Peace Network (Monywa)
  171. Thayat Chaung Women Strike
  172. The 88 Generation Peace and Open Society (Monywa)
  173. The Ladies
  174. Thint Myat Lo Thu Myar Organization
  175. TRF (Myanmar)
  176. Twitter Team for Revolution (TTFR)
  177. U.S. Campaign for Burma
  178. University Students’ Unions Alumni Force
  179. Volunteers in Myanmar
  180. Wetlet Revolution Leading Committee
  181. Wetlet Twonship Women Strike
  182. White Coat Society Yangon (WCSY)
  183. With Myanmar UK
  184. Women Alliance Burma (WAB)
  185. Yadanabon University Students’ Union (YDNBUSU)
  186. Yangon Medical Network
  187. Yangon Revolution Force – YRF (Soft Strike Community)
  188. Yangon Women Strike
  189. Yasakyo Township People`s Strike Steering Committee
  190. Yinmarpin and Salingyi All Villages Strike Committee
  191. Youth for Democratization of Myanmar (UDM)
  192. Zomi Christian Fellowship of Norway
  193. Zomi Community Norway
  194. ထီးချိုင့်ကွန်ယက်
  195. နားထောင်ရင်းလှူပေးပါ
  196. မျိုးဆက်-Generations
  197. အထက်အညာလွင်ပြင်ရပ်ဝန်း

Additional list

  1. Global Myanmar Spring Revolution (GMSR)
  2. Leaders and Organizers of Community Organizations in Asia (LOCOA) (Korea, Indonesia, Philippines, Thaland, Cambodia, India, Myanmar)

[i] Domestic Election Observer Organizations, Joint Statement by Domestic Election Observer Organizations, 29 January 2021, https://drive.google.com/file/d/1eLc0m-nFWorVCbucKBa8E9E2IsZo4_uW/preview

[ii] Reiner M. Antiquerra, John; Buenaobra, Maribel; Chung Lun, Lee & Vier, Amaël, The 2020 Myanmar General Elections: Democracy Under Attack – ANFREL International Election Observer Mission Report, Asian Network for Free Elections, 2021, https://anfrel.org/anfrel-releases-2020-myanmar-general-elections-final-observation-mission-report/

[iii] The Carter Center, Election observation mission, Myanmar, general election, November 8, 2020, Preliminary Statement, 10 November 2020, https://www.cartercenter.org/resources/pdfs/news/peace_publications/election_reports/myanmar-preliminary-statement-112020.pdf

[iv] Briefing Paper: Effective Control in Myanmar, Special Advisory Council for Myanmar, 5 September 2022, https://specialadvisorycouncil.org/2022/09/briefing-effective-control-myanmar/

[v] Assistance Association For Political Prisoners (Burma), Daily briefing, 3 July 2023, https://aappb.org/?p=25481

[vi] UNHCR Regional Bureau for Asia and Pacific, Myanmar Emergency Update, 1 May 2023, https://reporting.unhcr.org/myanmar-emergency-regional-update

[vii] Government of Japan, Ministry of Justice, International Cooperation Department

Research and Training Institute, March 2023, https://www.moj.go.jp/content/001393749.pdf

[viii] Republic of the Philippines, Department of Justice, Japan to host special meeting of ASEAN justice ministers, October 2022 https://www.doj.gov.ph/news_article.html?newsid=766

[ix] Aljazeera, US, UK, Canada sanction top Myanmar justice officials, 31 January 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/1/31/us-britain-canada-hit-top-myanmar-justice-officials-with-sanctions

[x] Aljazeera, US, UK, Canada sanction top Myanmar justice officials, 31 January 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/1/31/us-britain-canada-hit-top-myanmar-justice-officials-with-sanctions

[xi] Special Advisory Council Myanmar, The Myanmar Military is a Terrorist Organization Under Law, 14 December 2021, https://specialadvisorycouncil.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/SAC-M-Briefing-Paper-Myanmar-Military-Terrorist-Organisation-ENGLISH.pdf

[xii] Thomas Andrews, Illegal and Illegitimate: Examining the Myanmar military’s claim as the Government of Myanmar and the international response Conference room paper of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar (A/HRC/52/CRP.2), 31 January 2023, https://www.ohchr.org/sites/default/files/documents/countries/mm/2023-01-27/crp-sr-myanmar-2023-01-31.pdf

[xiii] Radio Free Asia, Cambodia Postpones First ASEAN Meeting Amid Differences Among Members, Voice of America, 13 January 2022, https://www.voanews.com/a/cambodia-postpones-first-asean-meeting-amid-differencesamong-members-/6395847.html

[xiv] The Straits Times/Asia News Network, Myanmar junta snubbed at Asean defense chiefs’ meet, The Inquirer, 23 November 2022, https://globalnation.inquirer.net/208753/myanmar-junta-snubbed-at-asean-defense-chiefsmeet


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