JAKARTA – Parliamentarians from Southeast Asia expressed their grave concern today that ASEAN countries are still scheduled to hold counter-terrorism military exercises with the Myanmar junta in August and September. They called on ASEAN to exclude the illegal junta from all joint military exercises held by the regional bloc.
“It would be utterly absurd for ASEAN countries to join the Myanmar junta in military exercises when the junta has consistently shown a lack of political will or interest in abiding by the Five-Point Consensus, notably ‘the immediate cessation of violence’,” ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) Chair and member of the Indonesian House of Representatives Mercy Barends said today.
“It is especially galling that these exercises are purportedly for counter-terrorism purposes as the junta has branded the democratically-elected National Unity Government and the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, as well as the People’s Defense Forces and various other pro-democracy entities, as terrorists,” said Barends.
According to statements from the Russian Ministry of Defense as well as documents from ASEAN’s website, the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM+) Experts Working Group on Counter Terrorism is planning to hold a tabletop exercise in Myanmar in August as well as a field exercise in Russia in September. Myanmar and Russia have chaired this working group since 2021, following their appointment in 2020.
“These exercises would only serve to increase the junta’s capacity to continue its campaign of murder and terror against the people of Myanmar. ASEAN must be unified in their condemnation of the escalating human rights situation and take action which makes clear that the Myanmar junta’s atrocities are unacceptable. One way to do this is by canceling these exercises and excluding the junta from all future joint military exercises and defense meetings,” said Barends.
“If ASEAN as a bloc refuses to do this, then we call on ASEAN and ADMM+ countries to follow the example of the United States, Australia and New Zealand and boycott the training.”