‘Myanmar junta is the cause of the crisis, not the solution’ – rights group

Advocacy group Fortify Rights called on the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to abandon the “failed” five-point consensus on Myanmar and adopt emergency measures to protect the country’s civilian population as the bloc convened its annual summit on Friday in Cambodia.

In a Thursday press release, Fortify Rights said it had received a leaked internal document from “a well-placed source” close to the member states. It included 11 points, among which were ambiguous assessments and recommendations about how to confront the crisis in Myanmar, the group said.

It made “no mention of the junta’s ongoing coup d’etat, its more than 12,000 political prisoners, or the junta’s well-documented nationwide attack on the civilian population,” Fortify Rights noted.

The document in question was reportedly prepared by the office of the ASEAN chair, Cambodia, after the bloc’s foreign ministers met on October 27, and was allegedly scheduled for review on Thursday in order to finalise recommendations to ASEAN’s heads of state.  

One of the points indicated that ASEAN should retain the five-point consensus decided at last year’s summit. The controversial 2021 agreement called for an end to violence in Myanmar, as well as for the initiation of “constructive dialogue among all parties,” the appointment of a regional Special Envoy, humanitarian aid, and a visit to Myanmar by the envoy. 

Though the Myanmar regime agreed to the consensus at that time, it was not implemented. Hundreds of civil society organisations have since deemed it “ineffective,” noting that it has not stopped ongoing “atrocity crimes” from being committed by the military. 

According to an initial statement published by the office of the ASEAN chair after last month’s meetings of the foreign ministers, the member states had decided to take “concrete, practical and time-bound actions” to implement the consensus. However, the chair later revised the statement, replacing it with a shorter, more generic text that did not mention the aforementioned actions, Fortify Rights said, describing the move as “a sign of discord.” 

The rights group called on the regional leaders to suspend the Myanmar junta’s participation in all meetings throughout the ASEAN system and abandon the approach adopted last year. 

Indonesian President Joko Widodo got behind the recommendation, proposing on Friday that Myanmar be banned from all ASEAN activities beyond major summits, according to Bloomberg news agency. 

Patrick Phongsathorn, human rights advocacy specialist at Fortify Rights, said that the Myanmar junta had “undermined ASEAN’s efforts at every stage” of the ongoing crisis and urged the bloc to take immediate “concrete emergency action.”

“ASEAN leaders need to get real—the junta is the cause of the crisis in Myanmar, not the solution,” he added. 

Fortify Rights also recommended that the ASEAN leaders adopt an agreement regarding the protection of Myanmar refugees, the authorisation of cross-border humanitarian aid, and coordinate internationally to cut off the junta’s supply of weapons and jet fuel, as well as its sources of revenue and opportunities for political recognition. 

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