One year on, since adopting the Five-Point Consensus on Myanmar, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its member states have not achieved any progress in addressing the human rights and humanitarian crisis perpetrated by the military junta.
We, the undersigned organisations, condemn the inaction of ASEAN and urge the regional bloc to move beyond the Consensus and align its efforts with the international community to immediately and meaningfully address the dire situation in Myanmar.
The ASEAN Five-Point Consensus (FPC), agreed upon by nine ASEAN Member states and the junta’s leader Senior General Ming Aung Hlaing, on 24 April 2021, stipulated the commitment of the regional bloc to make efforts to stop the violence in the country immediately and for all parties to exercise utmost restraint, foster constructive dialogue and to provide humanitarian assistance in Myanmar. Disappointingly, none of these action points has been meaningfully achieved.
In the past year, the brutal regime in Myanmar has actively undermined the spirit and content of the FPC and continued its systematic violations that amount to atrocity crimes, leading to more than 1700 killings while more than ten thousand political prisoners have been arbitrarily arrested and detained. The junta leader has also refused to cooperate with the regional bloc after the ASEAN leaders disinvited the Myanmar delegation from the ASEAN Summit in October 2021. We note that ASEAN has failed to take further, comprehensive actions and continues to allow junta representatives to attend scores of other ASEAN meetings, thus undermining the important political stand to exclude them from the Summit.
It has been one year since the FPC was adopted, but our organisations have observed no significant progress in improving the human rights situation on the ground. Hanging on to the FPC absent significant progress only prolongs the daily terror and deprivation civilians suffer in Myanmar while eroding ASEAN’s credibility and legitimacy.
Despite the commitment to engage with all stakeholders, ASEAN has shown ongoing reluctance to engage with the de-facto government of Myanmar, the National Unity Government. On the contrary, Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, in his position as the current ASEAN Chair, together with the current ASEAN Envoy to Myanmar, Deputy Prime Minister Prak Sokhonn, visited the junta chief Ming Aung Hlaing in Myanmar in January 2022 – a move that was undertaken without agreement from other ASEAN leaders. Civil society in the region condemned the action as ‘rogue diplomacy’, dramatically weakening ASEAN’s collective leverage to solve the Myanmar crisis. The delegation did not engage with the NUG and detained President U Win Myint and State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the civil disobedience movement, and ethnic armed groups during the visit. On 27 April 2022, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was once again sentenced to five years in prison on trumped-up corruption charges, further confirming ASEAN’s ineptitude in resolving the crisis in Myanmar.
During a speech on 28 March 2022, Ming Aung Hlaing called on ethnic armed groups not to engage with ‘terrorist groups’ – referring to the NUG, which had been branded as a terrorist organisation by the junta in 2021 and whose staff are facing arrest warrants. The junta also has deliberately weaponised humanitarian aid to obtain legitimacy from the regional bloc and international community.
As the junta has shown no commitment to respect the FPC, our organisations urge ASEAN leaders to move beyond it and explore alternative solutions to address the crisis in Myanmar meaningfully. One year of inaction is more than enough. The regional bloc, together with the international community, must ensure that any alternative solution should not delay the implementation of concrete action against the junta as demanded by civil society globally, including increasing sanctions, imposing an arms embargo and ensuring accountability.