Human Rights Watch (HRW) this week called on Indonesia, which now heads the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to pressure Myanmar to end violence and restore democracy.
The New York-based watchdog urged Indonesia and the regional bloc not to support Myanmar’s planned election this year until it releases political prisoners.
“As the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2023, Indonesia should promote new and stronger action to address widespread abuses by the military junta in Myanmar,” HRW said in a news release accompanying the release of its World Report 2023 on Thursday, January 12.
HRW’s Asia director called on Indonesia to take action to hold the Myanmar junta accountable for its failure to implement a regional five-point consensus.
At an emergency summit in Jakarta in April 2021 and in the presence of the Burmese junta chief, ASEAN leaders adopted this plan that aimed to end post-coup bloodshed and turmoil as well as return Myanmar to a democratic path.
“Ending Myanmar’s litany of abuses requires action, not just words,” Elaine Pearson told reporters in Jakarta. “ASEAN should consider suspending the Myanmar junta for its repeated failure to uphold the bloc’s commitment to a people-oriented, people-centered ASEAN.”
A military coup in Myanmar ousted the government led by Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1, 2021.
The five-point consensus called for an end to violence, constructive dialogue among all parties, mediation by a special ASEAN envoy, provisions of humanitarian assistance and a visit to Myanmar by an ASEAN delegation.
Indonesia and other ASEAN countries have expressed disappointment at the junta’s failure to implement the consensus, and human rights advocates and others have widely criticized the regional bloc for its collective weakness in pressing the junta in Naypyidaw to abide by the plan.
Regional observers and analysts, as well as the previous foreign minister of Malaysia, have said it was time to get rid of the consensus and devise a new plan that was time-bound and included enforcement mechanisms.
Despite such concerns, Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who met on Monday, said the five-point consensus was the best route to resolving the crisis in Myanmar.
Two days later, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said her nation, as the holder of this year’s ASEAN chair, was setting up a special envoy’s office to deal with Myanmar under terms of the consensus.
“[I]ndonesia will make every effort to help Myanmar out of the political crisis,” she said. “Only through engagement with all stakeholders, can the 5PC [five-point consensus] mandate regarding facilitation for the creation of a national dialogue be carried out.”
On Thursday, Pearson called on ASEAN and the United Nations to not lend legitimacy to polls planned by the junta for this year, calling it a “charade” and “sham.”
“Indonesia should be working with a smaller group of like-minded governments to take concrete measures to stop the junta from violating the rights of its citizens and tell the junta that there will be no support for any election until all political prisoners are freed,” she said.
Since the coup, the Burmese junta has carried out a widespread campaign of torture, arbitrary arrests and attacks that target civilians, the United Nations and human rights groups have said. More than 2,700 people have been killed and more than 17,000 have been arrested in Myanmar, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. – with a report from RFA