Myanmar’s military government has decried a decision by its Southeast Asian neighbours to invite only a non-political figure to an upcoming regional summit in a snub to the leader of the February 1 coup, as calls grow for more international pressure on the coup leaders.
The military government’s foreign ministry said in a press release on Friday that the heads of state or government of Myanmar enjoyed equal and full rights to participate in summits of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The next summit is to take place on October 26-28. It is not clear who, if anybody, will now represent Myanmar at the meeting.
“Myanmar will not be in a position to accept any outcome of the discussions and decisions which are…contrary to the provisions, objectives and cherished principles of the ASEAN Charter,” the foreign ministry said in its release.
More than 1,000 civilians have been killed by Myanmar security forces and thousands have been arrested, according to the United Nations, amid a crackdown on strikes and protests that has derailed the country’s tentative democracy and prompted international condemnation.
Myanmar’s military has said those death tolls are exaggerated.
International pressure has been mounting on ASEAN for a harder line against Myanmar’s failure to take agreed on steps to end violence, allow humanitarian access, and start a dialogue with its opponents — in line with an ASEAN “consensus” reached in April.
‘Unusual bold step’
The decision taken by ASEAN foreign ministers at an emergency meeting last week was an unusually bold step for the consensus-driven bloc, which traditionally favours a policy of engagement and non-interference.
Ministers at last Friday’s meeting were divided between sticking to a tradition of non-interference and the need to retain credibility by sanctioning coup leader Min Aung Hlaing, who has led the crackdown on dissent since seizing power from Myanmar’s civilian government, sources with knowledge of the talks told Reuters news agency.
The military said after the meeting that ASEAN’s decision went against its longtime principles.
Here is the English version of my address to the UN General Assembly today where I call for Member States to stand with and for the people of Myanmar by denying the junta what it needs to keep holding them hostage: money, weapons and legitimacy. https://t.co/HPpEGCl6TO pic.twitter.com/FeS8ZrafnX
— UN Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews (@RapporteurUn) October 22, 2021
Meanwhile, Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, urged the United Nations General Assembly to act and deny the country’s military rulers “what it needs to keep holding them hostage: money, weapons and legitimacy”.
Andrews urged the UN to pass a resolution prohibiting arms sales to Myanmar.
“This action is necessary because weapons and dual-use technology continued to be sold and shipped to the junta,” he said.
Andrews also called for sanctions to be imposed on Myanmar’s oil and gas enterprise, which he said is the single largest source of revenue for the military government.
The UN special rapporteur also warned of more possible bloodshed in the country, as the military moves “tens of thousands of troops, heavy weaponry, and other military assets” into the country’s northern region, where rebels are fighting the government.
“Unfortunately, we are likely on the eve of yet another catastrophe, including a significant loss of innocent lives and an even greater number of human rights violations,” he said.
The opposition National Unity Government (NUG) also warned of the military movement in Chin and Kayah states.
When added to the previously reported military violence in Sagaing and Magway regions of the country, the NUG said the latest troops movement to the north and other violence “demonstrate a widespread and systematic pattern of attacks conducted against civilians at the direction and in the full knowledge of the military leadership.”