Southeast Asian parliamentarians called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this week to take “urgent and immediate steps to alleviate the suffering” of the people in Myanmar.
The call came in the wake of a report the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) submitted to the Human Rights Council.
The report found that Myanmar’s military has engaged in “systematic and widespread human rights violations and abuses,” some of which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
“We’re soon approaching one year since ASEAN agreed on the Five Point Consensus, a year in which the bloc’s disastrous failure to make progress on these points has effectively given the Myanmar military license to commit what this UN report has concluded may amount to the gravest crimes against humanity,” said Charles Santiago, chairman of the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) and a Malaysian Member of Parliament.
He said security forces in Myanmar “have shown a flagrant disregard for human life, using air raids and heavy weapons on populated areas, deliberately targeting civilians.”
Santiago noted that Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, current head of ASEAN, has “attempted to engage with the criminal junta of Min Aung Hlaing unilaterally.”
He said the move undermined and delayed “any meaningful steps ASEAN might have taken to save lives.”
“ASEAN is politically and morally responsible for addressing this catastrophic situation in Myanmar, directly caused by the military junta,” said Santiago.
In its statement, the APHR said the seizure of power by Myanmar’s military has left the country facing “violence on a massive scale,” including arbitrary detentions, unnecessary and disproportionate use of force against peaceful protesters, extrajudicial killings, and ill-treatment and torture of prisoners.
“It is shocking that more than 14 million people in Myanmar, a fifth of the population, are in need of life-saving humanitarian assistance, and yet ASEAN has still only provided aid to support the COVID-19 response,” said Santiago.
He said the Five-Point Consensus plan to provide aid through the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Center “was doomed to fail from the start, but it is not too late to act.”
Santiago said ASEAN “should now focus its collective political will to help people in need and support local non-state actors and networks that the people already trust to distribute aid.”