ASEAN’s lack of action on Myanmar ‘costing lives’, rights groups say


The Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) failed to take any follow-up action on Myanmar, a full month after the regional bloc unveiled a diplomatic roadmap to address the military coup, rights groups said, adding it is wasting precious time while costing lives.

The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), a regional group of lawmakers that promotes democracy said the bloc needs to do more than just talk to stem the violence that has claimed more than 800 lives.

“It has already been a full month and nothing has changed. [Myanmar junta chief] Min Aung Hlaing is blatantly ignoring ASEAN’s calls and wasting their time,” said Charles Santiago, a Malaysian Member of Parliament and chair of APHR.

Meanwhile, the Burmese junta chief Min Aung Hlaing told a Chinese television channel that he was not ready to implement the so-called Five-Point Consensus reached at a special ASEAN leaders’ summit, which he attended in Jakarta in late April.

According to Gerard McCarthy, a postdoctoral fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Asia Research Institute, “ASEAN’s delay to appoint a Myanmar envoy is claiming lives.”

“As millions starve, ASEAN’s humanitarian effort – meant to be the ‘easy’ part of [the]leaders’ consensus commitment – remains hamstrung without an envoy to decide modalities. Huge cost to ASEAN relevance the longer this drags on,” he said via Twitter.

The ASEAN consensus, which Min Aung Hlaing reportedly agreed to during the April 24 meeting in Jakarta, also called for an end to the violence that had killed hundreds of civilians by then. But that, too, is nowhere in sight a whole month later, Forum-Asia, a network of members in 21 regional countries, said on Monday.

“ASEAN’s inaction signals a lack of urgency in fulfilling its five-point consensus on the Myanmar crisis,” Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, executive director of Forum-Asia, said in a statement.

“It has been a month since the ASEAN Leaders Meeting but the regional body has not rolled out any concrete plans in responding to the distressed asylum-seekers along Myanmar’s borders and has not even appointed its special envoy.”

Myanmar’s Civil Disobedience Movement group said ASEAN was not making any effort whatsoever to resolve the crisis almost four months after the Burmese military toppled civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government.

“Stop saying ‘ASEAN centrality’ at least till the time they prove their worth. Myanmar is burning and ASEAN is doing nothing,” the group tweeted.

It was addressing the international community, which has said that the regional bloc has a key role in resolving the situation in member-state Myanmar. The United Nations Security Council also endorsed the ASEAN consensus.

ASEAN’s “Five-Point Consensus” on Myanmar called for an immediate cessation of violence, with all parties exercising “utmost restraint.” Myanmar military and security forces have killed 824 people, mainly anti-coup protesters, since the coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a Thai-based NGO.

The ASEAN consensus also called for constructive dialogue among all parties, the mediation of such talks by a special ASEAN envoy, the provision of ASEAN-coordinated humanitarian assistance, and a visit to Myanmar by an ASEAN delegation to meet with all parties.

However, in what was probably his first interview since the coup, Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing told Chinese Phoenix Television that his priority was to calm the situation in the country.

An interviewer said to the military chief: “So the conclusion is that Myanmar is not ready to implement the five-point consensus reached by ASEAN yet?”

“Correct,” answered Min Aung Hlaing, according to tweets by a reporter for Phoenix TV. (Source: RFA)