Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
Select Page

07/11/2023 Myanmar (International Christian Concern) – On Tuesday, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) launched its 56th ministerial meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia. The regional bloc was founded in 1967 in Bangkok and is designed to promote economic cooperation and regional security. High on this week’s agenda will be how to address Myanmar, which, in February 2021, experienced a coup, sending the country back to military rule and sparking now years of international outrage at the blatant attack on freedom and democracy. Myanmar is an ASEAN member state, though it has been pushed to the sidelines since the coup. 

Necessarily at the forefront of the international response to the junta in Myanmar, ASEAN has tried to balance the political need to shun the junta and the humanitarian imperative of working with it to address the severe humanitarian crisis deepening around the country. Myanmar was not invited to attend this week’s ministerial in a continuation of official ASEAN policy regarding the junta. Instead, a non-political representative from Myanmar attended to observe the proceedings. 

“ASEAN remains deeply concerned about the increasing use of violence in Myanmar resulting in civilian casualties and destruction of public facilities,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters, according to Nikkei News. “This must be stopped immediately.” Indonesia chairs this year’s gathering. 

Quickly after the coup, ASEAN adopted the “five-point consensus” designed to stem the violence in Myanmar and bring peace to what is the world’s longest-running civil war. Just two days after the consensus was reached, Myanmar backed out of the agreement, saying that it needed to wait until the country was stable to consider such a plan. In the time since the consensus, the junta has only increased its attacks, and now two years later, the plan has failed to produce any appreciable results. 

The U.S. Treasury recently levied more sanctions on the junta. “This campaign of violence has resulted in the death of more than 3,600 civilians,” the Treasury said in a press release, “along with the destruction of tens of thousands of homes and other infrastructure, while also displacing nearly 1.5 million people.” 

Despite the significant resources available to the military, or Tatmadaw, recent reports suggest that anti-junta militias have gained significant ground in recent months, reducing the area under solid Tatmadaw control to as little as 17%, according to the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar. 

Western countries and their allies, led in large part by the U.S., have refused to acknowledge the junta’s legitimacy and have piled on dozens of sanctions designed to limit the junta’s financial resources. These latest sanctions target the Burmese Ministry of Defense, the Myanma Foreign Trade Bank, and the Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank. The latter two institutions house much of the junta’s foreign currency reserves, which are critical to the junta’s ability to import various goods and services needed to sustain its war effort. 

This week’s meetings come as the junta has increased talk of holding elections this year. Promised from the outset but consistently delayed, the junta’s proposed elections have done little to reassure human rights watchers and pro-democracy advocates who widely see the elections as an attempt to establish an ill-deserved air of legitimacy around the military government. 

In addition to the fact that the military cannot logistically run polling in the majority of the country due to its lack of territorial control, it has also taken steps to exclude any real opposition from participating, including by jailing democratically elected opposition party leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy, has already promised that it will not participate in the upcoming elections if they happen, as hundreds of their leaders and supporters remain imprisoned on spurious charges. 

The Tatmadaw has a long history of violence against the people of Myanmar, including against ethnic and religious minorities like the Rohingya and Chin. Soon after the 2021 coup, ICC published a report detailing several of these minority groups and proposing actions that the international community can take to push back against the Tatmadaw.

For interviews, please contact: [email protected].