Myanmar’s “shadow” government should be allowed to attend an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit slated to be held in Jakarta this Saturday (24 Apr), said Singaporean international human rights lawyer Ravi Madasamy.
His statement came after it was announced that Senior General Min Aung Hlaing will be making his first public overseas visit since the military junta came to power after a coup in Feb.
A spokesman for Thailand’s foreign ministry, Tanee Sangrat said on Saturday (17 Apr) that several leaders from the 10 ASEAN countries, including Min, will be attending the special meeting.
Mr Ravi, widely known as M Ravi, in a petition on Change.org said that the military junta “is illegitimate under international human rights law”.
“The shadow government has all the right to be at the meeting. It even has a greater right than the military as it is elected by the Myanmar people for its people. Otherwise, ASEAN will be seen as condoning the genocide in Myanmar,” Mr Ravi wrote.
Myanmar’s “shadow” government, branded the National Unity Government (NUG), is led by civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi under her capacity as state counsellor and President Win Myint, both of whom are still placed under house arrest by the military junta.
The petition initiated by Mr Ravi will be submitted to the ASEAN secretariat based in Jakarta twice this week — on Wednesday and again on Friday, the day before the summit is scheduled to take place, said the lawyer.
The petition has garnered over 500 signatures as of 3 pm on Monday (19 Apr).
Signatories cited the need to “speak up for democracy” and rejecting the “illegitimate” military junta’s “cruelty” as reasons behind supporting the petition.
Others said that the NUG is not a shadow government, but is a government that has received the mandate of the people in the elections that took place last year.
Al Jazeera reported an activist group as saying as of Saturday (17 Apr) that clashes between security forces and pro-democracy protesters have resulted in 728 fatalities on the latter part.
AFP cited local monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners as saying that over 3,100 people have been detained since the Feb coup.
While many of the detainees comprise protestors and activists, public figures such as celebrities, influencers, journalists and prominent activists with large social media followings have also been targeted through the junta’s nightly arrest warrants on state-run media.
In addition to anti-coup protesters and activists, civil servants and healthcare workers have also been heavily involved in Myanmar’s nationwide civil disobedience movement, boycotting working under the military regime.
Around 80 doctors have been declared as wanted fugitives for attempting to “deteriorate peace and stability”, according to AFP.
“Weak” response to Tatmadaw violence against anti-coup civilian movement sends “dangerous message” that military will not suffer repercussions
Last month, the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M) said that the “weak” international response to the Tatmadaw’s violence against the anti-coup civilian movement sends a “dangerous message” that the Myanmar military junta will not suffer repercussions for its actions.
The Council currently comprises Yanghee Lee, former UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar; Marzuki Darusman, former chair of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar; and Chris Sidoti, former member of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar.
Security forces and police around the country have murdered, beaten, detained, tortured and disappeared civilians, including children, in an attempt to terrorise the population into submission, said SAC-M on 14 Mar.
As it has done in the past, the Tatmadaw seems ready to crush the civilian resistance and impose military rule on Myanmar by lethal force. The repression is steadily escalating in intensity, consistent with the strategy of the Tatmadaw in past major military offensives, or so-called “clearance operations”.
“The recent behaviour of the military and security forces is deeply disturbing, as it calls to mind the days and weeks leading up to the massive genocidal offensive against the Rohingya in northern Rakhine in 2017,” said Lee, a founding member of SAC-M.
SAC-M observed at the time that the Myanmar junta has shut off internet access for 28 consecutive nights and revoked the licenses of the few remaining independent media outlets which had been reporting on the anti-coup protests. Soldiers have also raided the offices of media outlets, seizing servers and destroying equipment, it added.
Medical workers and ambulances responding to those injured in the protests have also been directly targeted by the security forces, said the Council.
“In recent days, soldiers have begun occupying public hospitals and universities around the country by force,” said SAC-M.
As a result of the military repression, efforts to defeat the pandemic have been severely set back and the entire country is now at serious risk of the health emergency expanding rapidly, including across the region, the Council said.
Human rights must not become mere rhetoric again in Myanmar, as it had during genocidal “clearance operations” against the Rohingya in 2017, said the Council.
“The international community has repeatedly failed to protect the people of Myanmar from the atrocities of the Tatmadaw. It is time to end the cycle of failure and take action now in the name of our shared humanity, before history repeats itself and the world looks on once again as tragedy unfolds before our eyes,” said SAC-M.
Stop funding junta, start imposing international arms embargo: UN Special Rapporteur
Separately, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews said on 12 Mar that Member States of the United Nations should cease funding the Myanmar military junta and begin imposing an international arms embargo against the Tatmadaw, as its response to peaceful protests have met “the legal threshold for crimes against humanity”.
In a statement to the Council, Andrews outlined five options that such a coalition could take immediately, namely:
- Stoping the flow of funds to the junta, including by imposing targeted sanctions on the junta’s business enterprises and on Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise, the single largest source of revenue to the State of Myanmar;
- Imposing an international arms embargo;
- Ensuring accountability for the crimes, through national courts using universal jurisdiction if the Security Council is unwilling to refer the matter to the International Criminal Court;
- Working directly with local civil society and aid organisations to provide humanitarian assistance whenever possible; and
- Denying recognition of the military junta as the legitimate government representing the people of Myanmar.
“The people of Myanmar need not only words of support but supportive action,” said Andrews.
Among entities that are disengaging from Myanmar and from military-affiliated enterprises since the coup, the UN noted, are Malaysian multinational telecommunications group Axiata Group’s subsidiary, edotco Group, which owns 3,150 towers in Myanmar, some of which are leased to MEC-owned Mytel.
Axiata has since put off plans to sell its US$500 million stake in edotco.
Multiple firms from Singapore were also listed, such as Coda Pay, which provided cardless payment services to Mytel. Coda has since removed Mytel from its portfolio of payment channels.
Shipping and logistics firm Transworld Group Singapore previously used Ahlone International Port Terminal 1, which is owned by Myanmar Economic Corporation.
Transworld Group will no longer use military-owned ports in Yangon.
Anti-drone firm TRD Singapore sold its Orion-7 drone signal disruptor to the Myanmar police previously.
Following the coup, however, it cancelled a deal to sell its anti-drone products to Yangon International Airport and will not supply Myanmar with anti-drone products while under the regime.
Razer co-founder Lim Kaling owned a one-third stake in RMH Singapore Pte. Ltd., which operates joint venture Virginia Tobacco Company with Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited.
He decided to dispose of his stock in the company and exit the investment in response to the coup.
In a doorstop interview on 31 March, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Singapore still respect the principle of non-interference in domestic matters, as with China.
“Ultimately, the fate and future of Myanmar lie in the hands of its people. We can try to help. ASEAN, and the UN, will certainly try to help in a constructive, non-interfering way, but in a way that allows dialogue to occur. We will have to do so carefully, patiently and in a way that encourages engagement and conversation, rather than confrontation.”
TOC has written to Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comments on its position on Senior General Min’s attendance at the upcoming ASEAN Summit.