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Myanmar Minister joins Southeast Asian defence meeting

In this photo released by Cambodian Defence Ministry, Brunei Second Minister for Defence Halbi Haji Yusof, General Secretary of Defense of Indonesia Agus Setiadji, Laos’ Defence Minister, Lieutenant General Chansomone Chanyalath, Malaysia’s Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, Myanmar’s Defence Minister Mya Tun Oo, Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Tea Banh, Philippine’s Defence Minister Jose Faustino, Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Thailand’s Deputy Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, Vietnam’s Defence Minister Phan Van Giang, and Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Political Security Community Robert Matheus Michael Tene, wave at ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on June 22. File

In this photo released by Cambodian Defence Ministry, Brunei Second Minister for Defence Halbi Haji Yusof, General Secretary of Defense of Indonesia Agus Setiadji, Laos’ Defence Minister, Lieutenant General Chansomone Chanyalath, Malaysia’s Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein, Myanmar’s Defence Minister Mya Tun Oo, Cambodia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Tea Banh, Philippine’s Defence Minister Jose Faustino, Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Thailand’s Deputy Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, Vietnam’s Defence Minister Phan Van Giang, and Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Political Security Community Robert Matheus Michael Tene, wave at ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on June 22. File | Photo Credit: AP

Myanmar's Defence Minister, under sanctions from the United States, Britain and other countries for abuses committed by his country's military, was welcomed on June 22 to an annual meeting with his counterparts in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Gen. Mya Tun Oo wore his military uniform as he attended the ASEAN Defence Ministers' meeting in Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh.

More than 600 civic groups inside and outside Myanmar had issued an appeal to the Ministers not to invite him. They accuse him of complicity in violence committed by Myanmar's military as it seeks to crush opposition to its seizure of power last year from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a private organisation that tracks government killings and arrests, said on Friday that 2,000 civilians have been killed by Myanmar's security forces.

The army is also battling anti-government guerrillas in the countryside. Mya Tun Oo has also been accused of involvement in atrocities carried out by the army against the Muslim Rohingya minority in 2017, when he was chief of the military's general staff, the third most powerful post in the army.

International courts are investigating allegations that the military committed genocide in brutal counterinsurgency campaigns that sent more than 7,00,000 Rohingya fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh for safety.

“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,“ said the appeal issued by 677 civic groups to the ASEAN Defence Ministers.

“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,” it said.

“Mya Tun Oo's direct responsibility for international law violations has been recognised by the USA, the U.K., EU, Canada and New Zealand, which sanctioned him.” Wai Hnin Pwint Thon, from the group Burma Campaign UK, told The Associated Press that ASEAN was failing to respect and stand with the people of Myanmar by inviting Mya Tun Oo to its meeting.

“The military will see this invitation … as a sign of encouragement to continue carrying out their human rights violations in the country with complete impunity,” she said. Cambodia is chair of the 10-nation ASEAN this year.

In February, ASEAN Foreign Ministers held their annual retreat without their counterpart from Myanmar, who was prevented from participating but allowed to attend online as an observer.

ASEAN has sought to play a mediating role in Myanmar's crisis, fearing its increasingly violent unrest may cause problems regionally. In April last year it reached a consensus on a five-point plan to try to help restore stability, but Myanmar has hindered the agreement's implementation.

Relations were strained further when Myanmar would not allow an ASEAN special envoy to meet with Suu Kyi, who has been detained since the takeover.

ASEAN, under the guidance of its former chair, Brunei, took the unprecedented step of not allowing the leader of Myanmar's military government, Min Aung Hlaing, to attend its annual summit last October.

A joint declaration issued after Wednesday's Defense Ministers meeting included a statement of support for the five-point consensus, which calls for an immediate cessation of violence, a dialogue among concerned parties, mediation by an ASEAN special envoy, provision of humanitarian aid and a visit to Myanmar by the special envoy to meet all concerned parties.

In January, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen became the first head of government to visit Myanmar since the army seized power.

He has stressed that Myanmar must be included in ASEAN's activities, but has also expressed pessimism that any progress toward peace can be made this year.


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Printable version | Jul 28, 2022 4:04:12 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/myanmar-minister-joins-southeast-asian-defence-meeting/article65553049.ece