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ASEAN urged to address Myanmar’s post-coup turmoil

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo, taken on June 14, 2021, shows protesters preparing to burn the flag of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as they take part in a flash mob demonstration against Myanmar’s coup, in Yangon. (Via AFP)

The FORUM-ASIA and Progressive Voice rights groups have called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to address the “dire” humanitarian crisis in Myanmar.

In a joint statement issued on Wednesday, the rights advocates urged ASEAN to initiate dialogue and provide assistance through its humanitarian coordination office.

The two organizations also warned ASEAN against giving legitimacy to Myanmar’s junta.

They called on the regional bloc to work with the National Unity Government (NUG) in Myanmar, which was formed in April by various groups including members of the ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, as well as local health organizations to deliver the needed humanitarian aid.

The statement came hours after foreign ministers of the ASEAN member states appointed Brunei’s second minister for foreign affairs, Erywan Yusof, as the special envoy to Myanmar.

The official has been tasked with ending violence in Myanmar through dialogue between the junta and its opponents.

That appointment is part of a five-point consensus that ASEAN struck with junta leader Min Aung Hlaing in April. 

The junta ruler formed a provisional administration on Sunday.

In his speech, Hlaing promised to hold elections in two years and said his administration would cooperate with any special envoy appointed by ASEAN.

The announcement would place Myanmar under military rule for nearly two and a half years – instead of the initial one year that the junta had promised days after the February 1 coup.

Myanmar has not been at ease since the army ousted Suu Kyi, and launched a bloody crackdown on dissent, which has badly affected the nation: at least 940 people dead.

The United Nations, China and the United States, among others, have opted in favor of ASEAN as the best mediator to find a solution for the crisis in Myanmar, which is itself a member state.

The United States has accused Myanmar’s military generals of playing for time after the junta leader extended the deadline for new elections.

Since the junta seized power, Myanmar’s economy has collapsed, triggering a new exodus of refugees fleeing from economic hardships, worsened by the deadly army crackdown and a surge in coronavirus infections.

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.

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