On October 14, Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs put out a statement regarding the visit of the Special Envoy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to Myanmar.
The Foreign Ministry statement said the military regime hoped the envoy would “be able to avoid putting politically motivated actions and pressures on Myanmar.”
“As Myanmar has been prioritizing peace and tranquility in the country, some requests which go beyond the permission of existing laws will be difficult to be accommodated. In this respect, special envoy and international community need to show some understanding on such situation,” the ministry said.
The ministry was specifically referring to requests to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, the former Myanmar leader who was detained, along with other members of the civilian government, after the military coup in February.
The Myanmar junta has cited a raft of charges against Suu Kyi as the reason the envoy could not meet with her.
But the military maintains it is working to assist ASEAN peace efforts.
“Myanmar is committed to constructively cooperate in the implementation of five-point consensus agreed at the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting held in Jakarta, Indonesia on 24 April 2021,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated.
That is false. In fact, Myanmar’s military leaders have done little to implement the five-point consensus. Rather, they have stalled, if not actively backtracked on, key elements of the agreement.
The five-point consensus called for an “immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar” and for all parties to “exercise utmost restraint.”
It further sought “constructive dialogue among all parties concerned” to hammer out “a peaceful solution in the interests of the people.”
A special ASEAN envoy was tasked with helping mediate the process. To that end, point five called on the special envoy and an accompanying delegation to visit Myanmar and “meet with all parties concerned.”
The consensus also envisions ASEAN’s help with humanitarian assistance.
Earlier this month, the special envoy, Brunei’s Deputy Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof, said other ASEAN members had discussed not inviting Myanmar to a summit later this month because of its lack of progress on the consensus.
Sources told Reuters the decision to exclude Myanmar’s military leader, Min Aung Hlaing, from the virtual summit would be made on Friday, October 15.
The refusal to allow Erywan, whose visit to Myanmar has been delayed, to meet with Suu Kyi, is one point of contention.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy was unable to take power due to the coup that followed the party’s resounding victory in November 2020 elections.
Since then, the junta has targeted her with criminal charges that include possession of unlicensed walkie-talkies and signal jammers, incitement, violation of COVID-19 regulations, accepting bribes and violating the Official Secrets Act.
The continued violence in the country is also a major sticking point.
The Myanmar nonprofit Assistance Association of Political Prisoners estimates that 1,178 people have been killed by the Tatmadaw (military) since the coup.
Since the five-point consensus was reached in April, the military has only ramped up its operations.
In July, the head of a volunteer aid group told the Voice of America that the military’s crackdown on urban, mainly peaceful protesters had spread to Myanmar’s border regions, dominated by ethnic minorities.
Around that time, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet warned that Myanmar risked plummeting into all-out civil war, with ethnic self-protection groups taking up arms and launching attacks that are met with “disproportionate force” by security forces.
Government forces’ actions have included airstrikes and artillery attacks, which have caused large-scale displacement of civilians.
In September, Myanmar’s National Unity Government, a shadow government formed in opposition to the junta, declared a “defensive war.”
Fighting has since intensified, particularly in Chin, Kayah, Kayin, Kachin and Shan states.
Aid groups have accused the military of blocking humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of people displaced by the military offensives in those regions.
National Unity Government members have blamed the military for a series of massacres.
In August, the World Food Program warned of a looming food security crisis affecting millions.
In September, Bachelet noted that clashes were now occurring regularly in regions “where conflict has not been seen in generations.”
“[T]he country faces a vortex of repression, violence and economic collapse,” she said, and is on the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.
The military has also systematically targeted health care facilities and personnel, “gravely compound[ing] the humanitarian consequences of the violence and a surge in the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Bachelet said the regime’s human rights violations “may amount to crimes against humanity committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack against the civilian population – or, to the extent arising in armed conflict, war crimes.”
Meantime, reports emerged on October 15 that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sought the postponement of a separate virtual meeting scheduled with Southeast Asian ministers the previous Friday. The Myanmar junta’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin would have attended that meeting.
Reuters reported that the U.N. chief was looking to avoid any move that could potentially give legitimacy to the Myanmar junta.