Myanmar generals banned from ASEAN until peace plan progress

ASEAN has repeatedly failed to take serious actions to pressure the junta. Instead, the bloc has shielded them by impeding wider, stronger intl actions & provided generals w/ tacit support. @Me_Me_Khant demands an end to intl engagement w/ #Myanmar junta.

Myanmar generals, ASEAN

Russian and Myanmar defense officials chair an Experts’ Working Group on Counter-Terrorism under the auspices of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) in Moscow, Russia, on July 21, 2022.

On July 20-21, the Russia and Myanmar militaries co-chaired a counter-terrorism meeting of the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) in Moscow.

Given that both militaries have committed a series of serious international crimes under the pretext of combating “terrorism” without remorse – the Myanmar military with its ongoing terror campaign against its own citizens and Russia with its invasion of Ukraine – this prompted outcries from Myanmar civil society and activists. A total of 448 civil society organizations, including our organization Students for Free Burma (SFB), sent open letters urging the governments of the United States, Japan, and South Korea to boycott the meeting.

In a perfect world, our efforts would have been unnecessary. We should not have to alert world leaders to the obvious fact that Russia and Myanmar commit terrorism rather than counter it.

Neither military uses the term “terrorism” as we conventionally define it in international affairs: “the unlawful use of violence against civilians in pursuit of political aims.” Because if they did, they would be two of the most brutal terrorist organizations out there. Instead, in their eyes, fighting for democracy and freedom translates as terrorism. As a protest organizer and leader of a pro-democracy organization, I would be branded a terrorist under their definition, as has Myanmar’s opposition National Unity Government and the People’s Defense Forces opposing the military junta’s rule.

The Myanmar junta has unleashed waves of extreme violence since its seizure of power on February 1 of last year. As of July 25, it had killed at least 2,120 civilians and arrested more than 14,000, nearly 12,000 of whom are still in detention, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). The junta’s military tribunals have sentenced at least 117 political prisoners to death, over 20 of them under the Counter-Terrorism Law.

As the nationwide anti-coup resistance grows, the military continues a scorched-earth terror campaign across the country’s heartland, burning villages and committing massacres, especially in Sagaing Region and Chin State in the country’s northwest. Myanmar Witness, “a group of open source researchers documenting human rights violations,” has verified more than 200 reports of villages being destroyed by the military’s arson attacks, with the pace of attacks increasing. The depravity of the military’s atrocities was revealed in a recent BBC report in which six soldiers who defected from the Myanmar military admitted in horrific detail to the killing, torture, and rape of innocent civilians. As appalling as it may be, this is only the tip of the iceberg of the Myanmar military’s brutality.

So, the last thing the Myanmar people needed was international governments emboldening the rogue regime and giving it a multilateral platform to seek cooperation in their repression of citizens and civil liberties.

Still, it happened. Russian and Myanmar military brass were seen chairing the meeting, sitting side by side in full regalia, a small ASEAN flag on the table in front of them. The Myanmar military was treated as if they were a legitimate government, though they are as far as can be from legitimacy. And this is not without consequences.

Last week, the Myanmar junta executed four pro-democracy activists under the Counter-Terrorism Law, the first such executions in over 30 years. The executions included two top political dissidents: Ko Jimmy, a beloved veteran activist of the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, and Ko Phyo Zayar Thaw, a former National League for Democracy MP. The families were denied access to the bodies of the executed activists. When asked by the reporters about the execution, the junta’s spokesperson simply said, “no need to explain.”

This unspeakably chilling and outrageous act of state violence is a direct result of the appeasement by the international community of the Myanmar junta. Not only have international governments allowed impunity through impotence, but they have also emboldened the junta by holding water for them. The blood is not on the hands of the junta alone.

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