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Thursday, August 5, 2021

ASEAN urged to address Myanmar crises, as special envoy named

Aljazeera
4 Aug 2021

Rights groups call on regional political bloc to work with shadow NUG, local health organisations to deliver urgent humanitarian aid.


Volunteers in protective suits carry a COVID patient lying on a bed as they try to relocate oxygen-dependent patients from the COVID centre during floods in Karen state [Karen Information Center/Handout via Reuters]


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) urgently needs to address Myanmar’s “dire” human rights and humanitarian crises, which are being compounded by a COVID-19 health emergency and recent flooding, rights groups have said, warning the regional bloc to avoid giving legitimacy to the country’s military.

“Little progress has been made” by ASEAN since it reached an agreement with Myanmar’s military leader Min Aung Hlaing in April that called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities”, the appointment of a mediator to initiate talks and the provision of humanitarian assistance through ASEAN’s humanitarian coordination office, FORUM-ASIA and Progressive Voice said on Wednesday in a joint statemen.

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It has been six months since Min Aung Hlaing led a coup in Myanmar on February 1, preventing the country’s elected parliament members from forming a new government while jailing many of its most senior leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

On Sunday, Min Aung Hlaing appointed himself prime minister and promised to hold free elections in 2023 – later than promised when he seized power – a move swiftly condemned by the international community and Myanmar’s civilian politicians as a tactic to stall the return of the country to democratic rule.


The coup has also worsened the conflict between the country’s military and ethnic rebel groups, prompting new clashes that have forced at least 230,000 people to flee their homes.

Amid the deepening political crisis, the country is also facing a parallel health emergency with the Delta variant, fuelling a new surge in coronavirus cases and deaths that have overwhelmed the country’s healthcare system.

So far Myanmar has officially reported more than 300,000 cases and 10,000 deaths, although it is believed that the casualties are much higher. There have been warnings that the country could turn into a “super-spreader” state.

On Sunday, Zin Mar Aung, the foreign minister of the shadow opposition National Unity Government (NUG) of Myanmar, warned that “the worst is yet to come” in the country’s COVID-19 crisis.

At the press briefing on Wednesday, Aung Myo Minn, NUG minister for human rights, added: “Every day that passes without ASEAN taking action is another day in which we lose lives. ASEAN must act and must act now.”

Earlier this week, the US State Department accused the military of stalling for time as Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged ASEAN to step up efforts to resolve the political turmoil triggered by the power grab.

The violence that followed the military coup has left more than 900 people, mostly civilians, dead, with more than 7,000 arrested and almost 5,500 detained, according to the human rights organisation Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

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