ASEAN pressed not to invite Myanmar junta leader to summit

ASEAN has faced strong criticism from rights groups, regional lawmakers and civil society groups over inviting Myanmar’s junta leader to its upcoming summit.

Apr 22, 2021

Protesters hold sunflowers during a demonstration against the military coup in Dawei on April 21. (Photo: Dawei Watch/AFP)

DAWEI: ASEAN has faced strong criticism from rights groups, regional lawmakers and civil society groups over inviting Myanmar’s junta leader to its upcoming summit.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has demanded ASEAN immediately withdraw its invitation to junta leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing to attend the summit in Jakarta, Indonesia, on April 24.

“Min Aung Hlaing, who faces international sanctions for his role in military atrocities and the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, should not be welcomed at an intergovernmental gathering to address a crisis he created,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW.

“ASEAN members should instead take this opportunity to impose targeted economic sanctions on junta leaders and on businesses that fund the junta, and press the junta to release political detainees, end abuses and restore the country’s democratically elected government.”

Regional lawmakers have also called on the bloc to extend an invitation to Myanmar’s newly established National Unity Government for its special summit.

“ASEAN cannot adequately discuss the situation in Myanmar without hearing from and speaking to the National Unity Government,” said Charles Santiago, chairperson of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights.

“If ASEAN’s purpose really is to strengthen democracy, as stated in its charter, they must give them a seat at the table. After all, they are the embodiment of democracy in Myanmar.”

The National Unity Government, established last week by ousted lawmakers, has urged ASEAN to give it a seat at the summit, which will discuss Myanmar’s crisis.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing was initially expected to attend the summit in person but will now participate online following Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's decision not to go to Jakarta, according to media reports.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres has called for leaders in Asia to bolster efforts towards finding a peaceful solution to the bloody crisis in Myanmar, sparked by the military coup on Feb. 1.

During a Security Council meeting on cooperation between the UN and regional and subregional organizations on April 19, Guterres highlighted the relationship with ASEAN, underlining the bloc’s important role in diplomacy, conflict prevention and peace building.

“I have repeatedly called on the international community to work, collectively and through bilateral channels, to help bring an end to the violence and the repression by the military,” Guterres said.

The UN chief urged regional actors “to leverage their influence to prevent further deterioration and, ultimately, find a peaceful way out of this catastrophe.”

UN special envoy Christine Schraner Burgener arrived in Bangkok on April 9 and planned to meet with regional governments including China.

The military junta has yet to allow Burgener to visit Myanmar to hold direct talks with military leaders.

Myanmar’s military has continued its intense crackdown on protesters across the country including towns and villages who show their defiance against the military rule.

More than 738 people have been killed and at least 3,300 have been detained and sentenced since Feb. 1, according to a rights group that tracks arrests and casualties.––ucanews.com

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