Home Myanmar Watch Myanmar coup: NGOs’ open letter to Asean leaders

Myanmar coup: NGOs’ open letter to Asean leaders

Asean NGOs have endorsed a letter on the occasion of the Asean leaders summit on Myanmar in Jakarta on 24 April

Protest in Sule pagoda in downtown Yangon this afternoon

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We, the citizens and people of Asean and the region representing national, regional and international organisations and networks of people’s alliances, welcome the initiative of the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, to convene a meeting of Asean leaders in Jakarta on 24 April 2021 to discuss the escalating crisis in Myanmar.

We welcome the urgent call by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to Asean for “a robust international response grounded on a unified regional effort” and “urging regional actors to leverage their influence to prevent further deterioration and, ultimately, find a peaceful way out of this catastrophe”.

We recognise the presence of the UN special envoy on Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, in the region and her presence during the Asean leaders summit in Jakarta on 24 April 2021 and demand her access to visit Myanmar urgently.

We support the recent statement by former UN secretary general and deputy chair of The Elders, Ban Ki Moon, that “Asean must make it clear to the Myanmar military that the current situation is so grave that it cannot be regarded only as an internal matter” and to “move beyond statements to collective action”.

We welcome the statements made by the governments of Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Singapore calling for an immediate stop to the violence against unarmed civilians including children in Myanmar and for the release of the detained political leaders of the rightfully elected NLD government as well as countless journalists, artists, health workers, employees, civil servants, men, women and children all over the country.

We strongly condemn and reject the decision of Asean to invite the Myanmar military junta leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, to attend the Asean leaders summit in Jakarta, which we see as a clear violation of the Asean Charter’s principle of “non-interference” and provides legitimacy in the eyes of the international community and the people of Asean to the genocidal slaughter being committed by the military regime against its own citizens and the people in Myanmar.

READ MORE:  People in Myanmar on the brink of starvation

We believe that since Myanmar’s membership of Asean in 1997, it has been Asean’s “weakest link” and therefore the current crisis and its cross-border ramifications will have serious detrimental consequences and impact on the governments and people of all the countries of Asean and beyond.

Even more alarming is the fact that since the military coup on 1 February 2021, Myanmar is rapidly sliding into becoming a “failed state” in Asean and the region.

We find it unacceptable that some governments in Asean are using Covid-19 as a pretext or excuse for inaction or are imposing restrictions on the access and delivery of urgent humanitarian assistance to the thousands of internally displaced peoples on the Thai-Myanmar border regions by Thai NGOs and other international humanitarian organisations.

We believe that the situation in Myanmar today is testing the very credibility and relevance of Asean as a regional inter-governmental body in the eyes of the international community and especially we, the citizens and peoples of Asean.

We therefore demand that:

  • Asean immediately invite representatives of the national unity government (NUG) who are the elected representatives of the people of Myanmar. Asean leaders will not be able to achieve anything at this summit to solve the current crisis without consulting and negotiating with the rightful representatives of the people of Myanmar, as expressed in the 2020 general election
  • Asean call for an immediate stop to the violence, imprisonment and extrajudicial killings of the people and foreign citizens in Myanmar
  • Asean call for the urgent and unconditional release of all political prisoners and detainees including the legitimate leaders of the National League for Democracy (NLD), president, chair of the Union Election Commission and its senior staff
  • Asean – under Thailand’s leadership – open up a “humanitarian corridor” along the Thai-Myanmar border to enable Thai humanitarian NGOs, international organisations and UN agencies to provide immediate and urgent relief and assistance to thousands of people displaced and presently seeking refuge in the forests and jungles of the Salween River along the border. This is not something new or unprecedented: in 2008, Asean leaders established a “Task Force on Humanitarian Assistance to Myanmar” in response to the Nargis Cyclone, and again during the Rohingya crisis. If this can be done by Asean leaders for a natural disaster and a refugee crisis, there is no reason or justification for it not to be done in the present situation of war crimes, crime against humanity, genocide and armed suppression of the peaceful protesters in Myanmar
  • Asean to intensify the dialogue and negotiations with the UN Security Council –  under the leadership of Vietnam (as president of the UN Security Council) to work towards a peaceful crisis resolution in Myanmar – and involve other UN agencies (especially the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
  • Asean not resort to the “non-interference in internal affairs” principle of the Asean Charter as an excuse to delay or detract from its commitment to democracy, human rights and security in the region as expressed in the Asean Human Rights Declaration
  • Thailand seek Asean support for declaring a “no-fly zone” along the Thai-Myanmar border regions as it directly threatens the national security of Thailand and the spillover to countries in the Asean region and beyond
  • Those Asean countries with economic, trade and commercial agreements and business in Myanmar should immediately suspend all business dealings, especially with those companies controlled by the Tatmadaw and its proteges – such as Myanmar Economic Holdings Public Co Ltd (MEHL), MyanmarEconomic Cooperation Limited (MEC) and others. Singapore, in particular, which has 52bn dollars of investments in Myanmar, has to take some concrete actions in response to the need to end the atrocities in Myanmar. Economic sanctions on individual military leaders are not good enough – increased pressure by freezing all assets and bank accounts of the Tatmadaw in foreign banks and companies held in Asean countries will send a more powerful message
READ MORE:  UN rights chief deplores persecution of journalists in Myanmar

We, the people of Asean, urge our leaders to heed this call and to take immediate action at the summit on 24 April 2021 to show the world that the so-called “Asean Way” enshrined in the Asean Charter will live up to its words and spirit to serve its peoples in all 10 countries.

22 April 2021


  • Aids Access Foundation
  • Alliance for Free Burma Solidarity
  • Asian Cultural Forum on Development (Acfod)
  • Asia Centre
  • Asia Network for Free Election (Anfrel)
  • Associate for Democratic Constitution
  • Campaign Committee for Human Rights (CCHR)
  • Campaign for Popular Democracy (CPD), Thailand
  • Centre of Multiculturalism and Education Policy, Chiengmai University
  • Chumchonthai Foundation
  • Cross-Culture Foundation
  • Esan Land Reform Network
  • Foundation for Aids Rights
  • Foundation for Labour and Empowerment Promotion (Homenet Thailand)
  • Foundation for Older Persons Development (Fopdev)
  • Foundation for Women
  • Friends without Border Foundation
  • Human Rights and Development Foundation (HRDF)
  • Human Rights Lawyers Association (HRLA), Thailand
  • Indigenous Knowledge and Peoples Foundation (Ikap)
  • Kasit Piromya, independent advocate for democracy and human rights
  • Khao Khu-Haa Community Rights Protection Association, Songkhla
  • Migrant Working Group (MWG), Thailand
  • Net Foundation
  • Network of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand (NIPT)
  • NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (NGO-Cod)
  • Non-Binary Thailand
  • P-Move
  • Peace and Culture Foundation, Thailand
  • Peace and Human Rights Resource Center (PHRC)
  • Peaceful Home and Network, Thailand
  • Pridi Banomyong Institute
  • Relatives Committee for May 1992 Heroes for Democracy (CRMH), Thailand
  • Shape Sea
  • Social Equality Promotion Foundation
  • Social Democracy Think Thank
  • Southern NGO Coordinating Committee on Development (SNGO-Cod)
  • Standing committee on human rights and peace, International Federation of Medical Students Association
  • Tamtang (SafeAbortionThailand)
  • Thai Allied Committee with Desegregated Burma Foundation (TACDB), Thailand
  • Thai Volunteer Service
  • The Assembly of NGOs for the Protection and Conservation of Environment and Natural Resources
  • The Mekong Butterfly
  • Union for Civil Liberty (UCL)
  • WeMove
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