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A file photo of Gen Mya Tun Oo. (Source: Mil.ru)

Myanmar junta representative must not be invited to ASEAN defence meeting

In its open letter on 15 June, 677 Myanmar civil societies demanded ASEAN defence ministers not to invite the Myanmar minister of defence to attend the upcoming ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM).

To:
H.E. General Tea Banh, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence, Cambodia

His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu'izzaddin Waddaulahibni Al-Marhum, Minister of Defense, Brunei Darussalam

H.E. Prabowo Subianto, Minister of Defence, Indoensia

H.E. General Chansamone Chanyalath, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of National Defence, Lao PDR

The Honerable Dato' Seri Hishammuddin bin Tun Hussein, Senior Minister of Defence, Malaysia

H.E. Delfin N. Lorenzana, Secretary of National Defense, Philippines

H.E. Dr. Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Defence, Singapore

H.E. General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Thailand

H.E. General Phan Van Giang, Minister of National Defence, Viet Nam

We, the undersigned 677 Myanmar (see signatories in this link), regional and international civil society organisations appeal to you not to extend an invitation to the Myanmar military junta’s Minister of Defence at the upcoming ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM).

The Myanmar military junta’s acts fully meet the definition of terror under international and national law, and is responsible for ongoing violations of international human rights and humanitarian law following the military’s illegal coup attempt. Since the military’s illegal coup attempt, almost 700,000 people have been forcibly displaced as the junta wages a terror campaign against the Myanmar people. In the face of mass public resistance, the junta has murdered more than 1,900 people, arbitrarily arrested over 14,000 more, committed widespread torture, indiscriminate airstrikes and shelling, burnt villages and looted public property.

In the upcoming 16th ADMM, scheduled for June 22, we understand that the Junta defense minister General Mya Tun Oo will be representing Myanmar. General Mya Tun Oo plays a leading role in the management of the military, which is responsible for committing ongoing atrocity crimes with total impunity. Mya Tun Oo’s direct responsibility for international law violations have been recognised by the USA, UK, EU, Canada and New Zealand, which sanctioned him. In its designation, the UK stated that Mya Tun Oo has “command responsibility for these violations and can therefore be held responsible for these actions.” Mya Tun Oo is also a member of the State Administration Council (SAC). The EU recognised that “as member of the SAC, General Mya Tun Oo has been directly involved in and responsible for decision making concerning state functions and is therefore responsible for undermining democracy and the rule of law”. Mya Tun Oo should be held accountable for his role in the military’s attempted coup and the junta’s atrocity crimes, and not rewarded through participation in ADMM.

We welcome ASEAN’s exclusion of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing from the 2021 ASEAN Summit, and the exclusion of the junta foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin from the 2022 Foreign Ministers’ Retreat. However, we note with concern that ADMM has invited the junta to participate in meetings, including at the ministerial level since its illegal coup attempt, which is inconsistent with decisions made by ASEAN to not invite General Min Aung Hlaing and Wunna Maung Lwin. ADMM’s engagement with the junta, which has included military exercises, may likely amount to the aiding and abetting of the junta’s war crimes and crimes against humanity.  

It is imperative that ASEAN does not award legitimacy to the Myanmar military junta, upholds its own charter and respects international human rights and humanitarian law by excluding the junta from ADMM. In allowing the junta to participate in ADMM, ASEAN is further risking complicity in the junta’s atrocity crimes by providing support and legitimacy to the military and emboldening a military that is waging a nationwide campaign of terror.  

We appeal to you as ASEAN defence ministers to disinvite Mya Tun Oo from the 16th ADMM and all future meetings. Engage with the National Unity Government as the legitimate government of Myanmar, and work to resolve the crisis in Myanmar.

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