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Engage with true representatives of the Myanmar people

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The newly appointed Asean special envoy to Myanmar must secure an end to the Myanmar military junta’s violence and engage with true representatives of the people of Myanmar, starting with the National Unity Government, the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M) has said.

The appointment of Erywan Yusof, Foreign Affairs Minister II of Brunei Darussalam, as the Asean special envoy to Myanmar must mark a turning point in Asean’s efforts to resolve a crisis caused six months ago by junta leader Min Aung Hlaing. Asean took three months to appoint the special envoy after reaching its five-point consensus and neglected to consult anyone other than the junta.

“After months of delay and hundreds of deaths, there’s no time to be lost. Implementation of the five-point consensus is now urgent,” Chris Sidoti of SAC-M said. “It should start with the special envoy securing an immediate total nationwide ceasefire by the military and the withdrawal of the military to barracks.”

The new special envoy has already been leading the 10-country regional bloc’s efforts to resolve the crisis in his capacity as representative of the Asean chair.

During this time, the killings of almost 1,000 democracy activists, peaceful protesters and other civilians by the junta have been verified. Over 5,000 more have been detained. Months of devastating air strikes and artillery fire by the military in massive assaults on civilian areas have killed many more and displaced at least 230,000. Entire villages are either deserted or in ruins.

The junta’s atrocities have only strengthened the people’s commitment to resistance and the democracy movement, represented by the National Unity Government. There is no going back to the quasi-democratic system in place before the coup.

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“Asean’s efforts thus far, waiting for Min Aung Hlaing’s consent before acting, have been unacceptable,” Marzuki Darusman of SAC-M said. “After six months, it is clear that the junta has neither the military nor the political might to overcome the democracy movement. To ensure any progress, the special envoy must engage in dialogue with the NUG, as well as the junta.”

The need for engagement with true representatives of the Myanmar people has been made clear by the catastrophic third wave of Covid in Myanmar, which the junta not only allowed to run freely but weaponised for its own political gain.

A decentralised network of local responders, ethnic service providers, civil society organisations, humanitarian groups and others aligned to the democracy movement has been fighting to keep people alive in the vacuum left by the junta’s inability to establish ordinary government functions or assert even a semblance of control. The NUG and Ethnic Health Organisation Covid-19 Task Force is directing cross-border efforts to get life-saving assistance into Myanmar and distributed to where it is needed.

“Asean’s inertia has already emboldened the junta as it commits atrocities that amount to crimes against humanity,” Yanghee Lee of SAC-M said. “If the special envoy continues to engage only with the junta, he will be taken for a ride while the people of Myanmar suffer the consequences.” – SAC-M

Yanghee Lee is the former UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, who held the mandate from 2014 to 2020

Marzuki Darusman is the former chair of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar (FFMM)

Chris Sidoti is a former member of the FFMM

In 2018, the FFMM called for the investigation and prosecution of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and his top military leaders for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

In 2019, the FFMM exposed the extent to which the Myanmar military uses its own businesses, foreign companies and arms deals to sustain its operations and called for immediate targeted sanctions and arms embargoes.


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