The Myanmar military junta and the Russian Defence Ministry – while both waging war against civilians and committing grave international crimes – will co-host a ‘counter-terrorism’ field training exercise for the militaries of ASEAN and Dialogue Partner countries in September.
The training exercise will focus on defeating ‘terrorists’ in a border area. This would provide direct support to the Myanmar military junta to improve its capacity to wage war against the people of Myanmar while simultaneously supporting the Russian military to continue its atrocities against the people of Ukraine.
Held under the ASEAN Defence Ministers-Plus Experts’ Working Group on Counter Terrorism (ADMM-Plus EWG), the training involves representatives of defence ministries cooperating to share and develop their military capabilities.
The planned training exercise follows a related ADMM-Plus EWG tabletop training exercise held in Myanmar in August, which was also co-hosted by the Myanmar military junta and Russia.
The Myanmar military junta has openly claimed that these training sessions will help their campaign against resistance groups, including the democratically elected National Unity Government and People’s Defence Forces.
Due to the potentially grave consequences, 551 Myanmar regional and international organisations and allies have sent an open letter urging ASEAN Member State governments to:
If the Myanmar military junta is not excluded from ADMM-Plus activities, these organisations appeal to ASEAN Member State governments and Dialogue Partners publicly refuse to attend all ADMM-Plus activities involving the Myanmar military junta.
The states that participate in counter-terrorism training alongside the military junta may risk being complicit in the junta’s subsequent offensives against those it accuses of being ‘terrorists’ in Myanmar.
The decisions of some ADMM-Plus Dialogue Partners – Australia, New Zealand and the United States – not to participate in the recent tabletop training in Myanmar or the upcoming training in Russia have been most welcome. Notably, representatives of Japan, Singapore and South Korea’s defence ministries were also not present in photographs of the recent training in Myanmar.
The rest of the ASEAN Member States – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – and ADMM-Plus Dialogue Partners – China and India – have so far given no indication of whether they will attend the upcoming field training or not.
Spokesperson for Defend Myanmar Democracy, Naw Aung, remarks: “ASEAN is helping the Myanmar military junta to develop its capacity to further its campaign of terror against the people of Myanmar.”
“This provides false legitimacy to the military junta and seriously damages ASEAN’s credibility to assist in solving the political crisis in Myanmar caused by the junta.
“We welcome the decisions of the defence ministers who have chosen to boycott these training sessions and urge the others to follow their example.”
Chairperson of Progressive Voice, Khin Ohmar, states: “By joining this military exercise, ASEAN members and Dialogue Partners risk aiding and abetting the illegal military junta to commit further war crimes and crimes against humanity against civilians. The Myanmar junta is a terrorist organisation and must not be afforded recognition on a regional stage, let alone be allowed to host an offensive exercise against so-called borderland terrorists.”
“ASEAN must halt its negligent business-as-usual approach and reform its modus operandi to support the will and aspirations of the Myanmar people for federal democracy, human rights and justice and accountability.”
Executive Director of the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Mary Aileen Diez-Bacalso, stresses: “It is utterly shocking and disappointing to see how the Myanmar military junta is tasked to oversee counterterrorism exercises despite its gross human rights violations and blatant disrespect for international humanitarian law.”
“ASEAN must stop assisting Myanmar’s military by enhancing its capabilities. The people of Myanmar deserve an effective and committed response from ASEAN and its Dialogue Partners.”
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