A protester carries a placard during a protest on Myanmar crisis in front of the Myanmar Embassy in Central Jakarta on Feb. 5, 2021. (JG Photo/Yudha Baskoro)

Civil Groups Demand Asean’s Greater Sense of Urgency on Myanmar

BY :JAYANTY NADA SHOFA

APRIL 09, 2021

Jakarta. Hundreds of civil groups across Southeast Asia urged Asean to show a greater sense of urgency when addressing the Myanmar military coup in a recent joint declaration.

Dino Patti Djalal —chairman of the think-tank Foreign Policy Community of Indonesia (FPCI)— along with former Timor-Leste president José Ramos-Horta convened a virtual Southeast Asian people-to-people region hall to draft the declaration on Thursday.

As many as 225 participants representing civil groups, youth organizations, and individuals signed the 27-point document. 

The declaration commends Asean for taking the constructive initial steps to address the crisis. However, much more needs to be done, as the death toll rises with children’s lives lost to the brutal crackdown by the Tatmadaw military. 

“We believe that Asean needs to demonstrate a greater sense of urgency commensurate with the worsening situation on the ground,” the declaration read.

To this end, the declaration suggests Asean to send a special envoy to Myanmar and a delegation of the representatives of the Asean countries — working in tandem with the UN Security Council — to engage with all parties to end the violence. 

“And to help reach a political solution that is just and acceptable to the people of the country,” the declaration continued.

In his opening remarks, Dino commented on the non-interference principle upheld by the Asean bloc in response to the crisis. 

“‘Non-interference is not about being silent when it is a gross violation of human rights. It is not about being silent when elected leaders are being jailed. Non-interference is not about being silent when a room in our Southeast Asian house is on fire,” the former Indonesian ambassador to the US said. 

Sanctions Against Tatmadaw

Also mentioned in the joint declaration was sanctions against the Myanmar military.

“We the peoples of Southeast Asia call for the enactment of effective measures and targeted sanctions aimed at ending Tatmadaw’s ability to conduct indiscriminate violence with impunity,” the declaration read.

“Including but not limited to freezing the assets parked in financial institutions outside the country and calling for investors to reassess their investment in Myanmar.”

Ramos-Horta highlighted how there should be comprehensive sanctions against the military junta. The 1996 Nobel Peace Prize awardee also responded to the concerns that economic sanctions would hurt the people of Myanmar.

“Any excuse from any leader in Asean or elsewhere that sanctions would harm the people is entirely unacceptable and hypocritical,” Ramos-Horta said.

Debbie Stothard, the founder of human rights nongovernmental organization Altsean-Burma, noted that the people of Myanmar were already boycotting military-linked products. 

“They were the ones in the streets leading the international calls for sanctions against the military regime,” she said.  

According to Debbie, the military grabbed power partly because they wanted to defend their corrupt business practices. They have also suspended more than 200 employees of the Myanmar central bank. 

“They shut down the internet so consistently that the banks and ATMs cannot operate. It is the military that is also destroying the economy,” she said.

The issuance of the joint declaration followed President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s call for an Asean summit on the Myanmar crisis.

Reuters reported on Monday that the bloc’s chair Brunei Darussalam and member state Malaysia had asked their officials to prepare for a meeting at the Asean Secretariat in Jakarta. They, however, did not reveal when the meeting would take place.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners activist group, as reported by Al Jazeera last Saturday, security forces have killed 550 people —in which 46 of them were children— since the Feb. 1 military takeover.

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