Marzuki Darusman: ASEAN Peace Plan, a tentative starting point, now dead in water

April 25th, 2022  •  Category News
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SAC-M’s 30 April 2021 statement quoted in op-ed by Bo Kyi published in the Irrawaddy.

ASEAN’s Peace Efforts Dead in the Water

25 April 2022


Burma’s decline into failed state status began on February 1, 2021. Amid overwhelming public opposition to the coup d’état, the military resorted to indiscriminate violence and terror. The deteriorating situation got so bad, with international pressure and media reports, that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was forced to call an urgent meeting with the regime’s leader, Min Aung Hlaing, in Jakarta on April 24.

The escalating deaths in the crackdowns leading up to the meeting made the junta directly refute the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP)’s internationally recognized fatality statistics as “fake and hoax news” in an absurd leaked 118-page briefing to diplomats.

Burma’s democratic representatives in exile were not invited and a five-point consensus was a “tentative starting point” which ignored the detention of thousands of political prisoners. ASEAN’s focus on returning the country to a 2008 Constitution “status-quo” meant the five-point consensus did not reflect the people’s wishes.

The people are not resisting a brutal regime to restore an undemocratic constitution. The younger generation is fighting the regime for a truly federal, democratic charter formulated by the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC).

Last year, Marzuki Darusman of the pressure group Special Advisory Council for Myanmar said: “The consensus must be followed by swift action.”

But a year later, the five-point consensus is dead in the water.

Following that ASEAN meeting, the junta has murdered at least 1,007 people, including 89 children. It is increasingly detaining relatives and friends of activists as hostages, with 282 seized since the meeting.

It did not take long for the junta to break the first point on the “immediate cessation of violence”. On the day of the Jakarta meeting, 56-year-old Hinn Oo from Naypyidaw was killed by the junta during a motorbike demonstration in Pyinmana Township.

The AAPP’s documentation of the killings and detentions are recognized as the credible figure, even though we maintain the actual number will be much higher because of our strict verification criteria and there are plenty of other human rights violations.

Entire villages are being burned and destroyed whilst humanitarian aid is used as a weapon of collective punishment by the military. Aid workers are attacked across the country. In Kayah State, at least 37 people, including two international aid workers, were massacred on December 24, 2021, in Hpruso, and their bodies found burned to ash.

On April 3, junta troops forced a World Food Program delivery for displaced people in Magwe Region to return. The junta does not “provide humanitarian assistance” under the fourth part of ASEAN’s consensus as it benefits a civilian population overwhelmingly resistant to military rule.

ASEAN was founded to promote economic and security integration. It needs to understand military-sponsored terrorism will have profound implications for the region. All our neighbors want stability. The military and its aligned militias will scramble to crush resistance whatever the cost.

No ASEAN envoy has had success with the third or fifth points to “facilitate mediation” and “meet with all parties”. Brunei’s envoy, Erywan Yusof, could not even visit the country. Cambodia is the current chair of ASEAN but is beholden to China. Our unneighborly superpower hedged its bets with the National League for Democracy before the coup but has since pressured Cambodia to engage with the junta and ignore the people’s wishes.

Beijing must see the National Unity Government (NUG) as the viable and authentic stakeholders if it really wants stability.

Two key stakeholders, State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and President U Win Myint, remain detained in secret locations in Naypyidaw, facing kangaroo courts. Burma has representatives from the NUG, NUCC and Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw not in torturous prisons and available for talks.

However, on Armed Forces Day this year, Min Aung Hlaing pledged to “annihilate to the end” resistance to the military junta. He meant Burma’s democratic representatives who he labeled as “terrorist organizations” on May 8, 2021. Hardly the “constructive dialogue among all parties” envisioned in the second point of ASEAN’S consensus.

The world can see the junta’s State Administrative Council is committing crimes against humanity and war crimes. Just recently, the United States formally determined Burma’s military committed genocide against the Rohingya people.

This authoritarian organization cannot create stability because it causes the disorder. We need democratic allies to push ASEAN to revisit the five-point consensus as it is plainly going nowhere as it is.

Bo Kyi is a former political prisoner and current joint secretary of the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners Burma.