When the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) holds a special summit on Saturday to discuss Myanmar, the regional body will be under as much scrutiny as the general who led the February coup ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Opponents of the junta are furious that ASEAN is welcoming its chief, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, to its meeting in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, arguing that because he seized power by force, he is not Myanmar’s legitimate leader. Also weighing heavily against him is the lethal violence perpetrated by the security forces he commands, responsible for killing hundreds of largely peaceful protesters and bystanders.
“Min Aung Hlaing, who faces international sanctions for his role in military atrocities and the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, should not be welcomed at an intergovernmental gathering to address a crisis he created,” said Brad Adams, Asia director for New York-based Human Rights Watch.
“ASEAN members should instead take this opportunity to impose targeted, economic sanctions on junta leaders and on businesses that fund the junta, and press the junta to release political detainees, end abuses, and restore the country’s democratically elected government,” he added.
The junta’s foes have promoted the idea that the opposition’s parallel National Unity Government, recently established by the elected lawmakers the army barred from being seated, should represent Myanmar, or at least have some role in the Jakarta meeting. It has not been invited.
“It’s unacceptable that they invite this murderer-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing, who has just killed more than 730 people in Myanmar, and I think it is very unfortunate that they, again and again, talk to the military generals and not to the civilian government of Myanmar, which is the NUG,” says the parallel government’s Minister of International Cooperation, Dr. Sasa, who uses one name.
Evan Laksmana, a researcher for Indonesia’s Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank with close government ties, said there is a very practical reason for engaging Min Aung Hlaing face to face.ASEAN recognizes “the reality is that one party is doing the violence, which is the military, and therefore that’s why the military is being called to the meeting. So this is not in any way conferring legitimacy to the military regime,” he said. SOVEREIGNPH