When Japan hosted ASEAN and the G7 justice ministers’ meetings on July 6 and 7, the Myanmar military junta was not included. This is a step in the right direction, and it must serve as a precedent for future engagement.
Japan’s official summary of the meetings confirms that Myanmar was not officially represented at the meetings. Photographs of the meetings in Japanese news reports also show that Myanmar’s seat was notably left empty.
However, it remains unclear whether any military junta representatives participated as observers in the ASEAN and G7 meetings.
The military junta is an illegal and illegitimate body which currently occupies some institutions of national government in Myanmar and is not, by any definition, a government.
The military junta-appointed ‘minister for legal affairs and union attorney general’, Thida Oo, has been sanctioned by the United States, United Kingdom and Canada for undermining democracy and the rule of law. The junta’s ‘supreme court chief justice’, Tun Tun Oo, has also been sanctioned by the United States and Canada for undermining democracy and the rule of law[i].
The exclusion of military junta representatives follows an open letter from 411 civil society groups calling on Japan’s Minister for Justice, Ken Saitō, to exclude the junta from the meetings and, instead, affirm that the Myanmar people will be represented by their legitimate government, the National Unity Government.
Spokesperson for Defend Myanmar Democracy, Ko Ye, responds to the outcome: “Japan’s exclusion of military junta representatives at these meetings is a step in the right direction, which will be welcomed by the people of Myanmar.”
“This action provides recognition that the junta’s attempts to pose as the government of Myanmar are illegitimate.
“This decision should be viewed as an example for future meetings and forums where representatives of the military junta must not be invited, included or consulted.
“Importantly, we strongly encourage Japan and other governments to take the next necessary step: invite Myanmar’s democratically elected government to represent us in all regional and international meetings and forums, within ASEAN and elsewhere.”
Chairperson of Progressive Voice, Khin Ohmar, states: “Japan’s decision must set a precedent to reject all future bids to gain legitimacy by the junta – that the Myanmar people have categorically rejected, and bring about official engagement with legitimate stakeholders of Myanmar.
“As a key ASEAN dialogue partner and a major donor to Myanmar, Japan must no longer evade its responsibility to meaningfully respect the will and aspiration of the Myanmar people for justice and accountability in its actions.
“Japan must assume a greater leadership role at the UN Security Council to coordinate a new resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to hold Myanmar military generals accountable for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes by a referral of the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court.”
Further comments and more information:
Defend Myanmar Democracy
+66 816 490 228 (Signal)
[i] 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
[ii] Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma), Daily briefing, 14 July 2023, https://aappb.org/?p=25596
[iii] United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Myanmar Humanitarian Update No. 31, 15 July 2023, https://reliefweb.int/report/myanmar/myanmar-humanitarian-update-no-31-15-july-2023?_gl=1*m6gzo1*_ga*NzAzODY5MTY2LjE2NzcxMzUxMzA.*_ga_E60ZNX2F68*MTY4OTgxNzE3OS4xMi4wLjE2ODk4MTcxNzkuNjAuMC4w
[iv] Special Advisory Council Myanmar, Briefing paper: The Myanmar military is a terrorist organisation under law, 14 December 2021, https://specialadvisorycouncil.org/2021/12/briefing-paper-the-myanmar-military-is-a-terrorist-organisation-under-law/