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ASEAN’s Continued Engagement With Myanmar Junta Risks Legitimizing Illegal Regime, Southeast Asian MPs Say

March 19th, 2024  •  Author:   ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights  •  3 minute read
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March 19,2024

JAKARTA – ASEAN’s continued and increasing engagement with the Myanmar military junta risks legitimizing the illegal regime and betraying the efforts of pro-democracy forces, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) said today.

“Despite the abundant and irrefutable evidence that the junta has perpetrated grave human rights violations against its own citizens, ASEAN continues to collaborate and engage with them,” APHR Co-Chair and former Malaysian member of parliament Charles Santiago said today.  “This is a slap in the face for the Myanmar people and their valiant resistance in the face of the junta’s brutal oppression.”

The ASEAN chairmanship, currently held by Laos, has evidently sought to bring Myanmar back to meetings despite an agreement that barred top-level generals from participating. An official from Myanmar most recently attended the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat held in Luang Prabang, Laos, where representatives called for a “Myanmar-owned and led solution.” 

APHR is also concerned by recent remarks from Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin about Thailand’s involvement in the Myanmar crisis. In an interview with Time Magazine, he said that “ASEAN has agreed that Thailand will take the lead” on peace talks with Myanmar. Thailand has a history of trying to bring Myanmar back into the ASEAN fold, despite the junta showing no interest in adhering to the Five Point Consensus or ending its ongoing hostilities against the civilian population.

“There is no clear mandate within ASEAN that makes it acceptable for Thailand to lead on Myanmar, given that it is neither the current Chair nor part of the ASEAN troika. The Thai Prime Minister’s comments undermine the credibility of the bloc and ASEAN centrality,” said Santiago. 

Most recently, a junta-affiliated media outlet has praised ASEAN for “seeing the light”. The Myanmar military junta has led a brutal campaign of violence against civilians with impunity since its attempted coup, with the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) estimating that at least 8,000 civilians have been killed since February 2021. According to the local organization Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), the junta has also arbitrarily arrested 26,244 people, with 20,112 of them still currently in detention. As such, any praise from the junta should be seen as a dire warning sign that ASEAN is going in the wrong direction.

“As countries that claim to uphold democracy and human rights, Indonesia and Malaysia must use their position within the ASEAN troika to end any and all engagement with the junta and take action to hold them accountable for their crimes,” said Santiago. “Anything less will only diminish their credibility and relevance – as well as ASEAN’s – on the global stage.”


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