In Myanmar, ASEAN’s empty diplomatic rhetoric is costing lives ASEAN


The regional bloc must support the growing calls for a global arms embargo on Myanmar.

Words alone have failed to convince the Myanmar military to stop killing and imprisoning its civilian opponents. Both the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have called on the Myanmar military to cease its use of violence. The military is defying these calls and continuing deadly storms and arbitrary arrests.

A more significant source of pressure (a global arms embargo) remains difficult to avoid, with the UNSC once again blocked. China, Russia and India are the main arms suppliers to Myanmar’s army.

In the face of the failure of the UNSC, the failure of ASEAN at the helm is especially disappointing. The international community has shown deference to ASEAN in addressing the human rights crisis to its Myanmar member, but instead of living up to it, ASEAN has taken the mantle and so far he stumbled.

On April 24, ASEAN leaders issued a consensus statement calling for the “immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar.” Myanmar immediately disallowed this statement. Since then, ASEAN has not implemented or urged measures to stop the killing, or even appoint the special envoy provided for in the statement. ASEAN must make clear the deadline for implementing the five-point consensus and what the consequences will be if military leaders challenge this call.

ASEAN states are also involved in negotiations with the core group of more than 50 UN member states sponsoring a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution to address the human rights crisis in Myanmar.

To their credit, ASEAN states now appear prepared to join the UNSC in demanding the immediate and unconditional release of government officials and thousands of others who have been arbitrarily arrested, detained or charged.

This is not only the right thing to do, but it is clearly necessary, as the dialogue and mediation that ASEAN claims to lead will be almost impossible as long as the civil opposition remains imprisoned.

But the regional bloc needs to do more. ASEAN must also support the push for a global arms embargo, a call supported by more than 200 civil society organizations, including Amnesty International, and many UNGA member states. Instead of accepting this call, ASEAN members have so far demanded that all states be removed from the UNGA resolution to suspend the sale or transfer of all weapons, ammunition and other military equipment to Myanmar.

It is this action of the states, especially if it is made mandatory by a UNSC resolution, that can begin to enforce the demands of the international community in the Myanmar army to stop firing peaceful protesters across the country and illegally killing civilians in areas affected by armed conflict mass arrests and the release of the thousands of people he has arbitrarily detained.

While ASEAN itself cannot impose an arms embargo, it should urge the UNSC to do so, as the Myanmar army continues to use lethal violence and arbitrary detentions against its civilian opposition.

The Myanmar crisis is the biggest threat to ASEAN’s credibility, as the situation continues to evolve into a major humanitarian and human rights crisis with repercussions across the region.

In this worsening context, ASEAN retains the critical means for international pressure, down to the UN.

Meanwhile, the military challenge knows no bounds. When the UNSC issued a presidential statement on March 10 condemning the violence and urging “maximum moderation,” it was reported that 60 people had died.

On June 2, that total number was 842. Empty diplomatic rhetoric is costing lives.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Al Jazeera.

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