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Myanmar: ASEAN must kickstart stalled approach to human rights crisis at US summit

As leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meet in the United States for a two-day summit, Amnesty International urges them to spotlight the violence and human rights violations in Myanmar.  

“The Five-Point Consensus is a failure and did not stop the Myanmar military from perpetrating more human rights violations against the Myanmar people following the 2021 military coup,” Emerlynne Gil, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Research, said. 

“The ASEAN must concede that the human rights violations in Myanmar have now become a regional concern. The Myanmar military’s violence against its own people has not only made people feel unsafe but it has also led to the deterioration of the country’s economy. Right now, thousands of people are fleeing or attempting to flee to neighboring countries like Thailand and Malaysia not only to seek safety, but also to find work and feed their families. 

“ASEAN Member States should formulate a more detailed blueprint to hold Myanmar’s military accountable for human rights violations and address urgent needs, including committing to non-refoulement of refugees fleeing violence, facilitating desperately needed humanitarian assistance, and adding their voices to calls for a global arms embargo. ASEAN Member States should also act bilaterally to achieve these goals if consensus within the bloc cannot be reached. 

“As host of the summit, the Biden administration should center discussions on the ongoing human rights violations in Myanmar and in the region more broadly. The regional trends we’ve seen in recent years – escalating repression, constraints on civil society, and intolerance for political dissent – are antithetical to the free and open Indo-Pacific to which the US government is purportedly committed to supporting and will never be realized if human rights are ignored.” 

Background: 

Almost all leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are expected to attend the 12-13 May summit in Washington, which will mark 45 years of US-ASEAN relations. 

Myanmar’s Min Aung Hlaing, who seized power in the 1 February, 2021 coup, was not invited as part of efforts to distance the bloc from the senior general, who has not implemented the Five-Point Consensus he agreed to in April 2021.  

The Consensus was mainly aimed at stopping the violence against protesters, supplying humanitarian aid, and increasing dialogue. Since it was adopted, the situation in Myanmar has further spiraled out of control. Since the start of this coup, Myanmar’s military has killed more than 1,800 people, according to one monitoring group, and detained more than 10,000.  

Armed resistance groups have also sprung up in response to the bloody crackdown, while peaceful protests, though much smaller than at the beginning of the coup, have continued despite grave risks. 

Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was ousted in the pre-dawn hours of the coup, has been hit with an array of bogus charges and convictions, as have many of her allies.