Many words yet little action as military still rules Myanmar, says human rights chief

Regional leaders and human rights groups have repeatedly called for democracy and the rule of law to prevail after the military overthrew the Myanmar government on February 1.

Yet, the situation in the Southeast Asian nation remains tense as thousands of protesters continue taking to the streets. Over 700 anti-coup protesters, including healthcare workers and children, have been killed since.

Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) chairperson Charles Santiago said the word disappointment was an understatement.

“So many statements (have been made) but nothing is happening,” he told Twentytwo13.

“The same thing happened in 2017 when the army was involved in the slaughter of thousands of Rohingya. We are seeing the same thing today. Clearly we have not learnt from the past.”

He admitted state leaders remain unsure on how to navigate this issue as the Myanmar army “is not interested in listening to anyone.”

“It’s also about buying time,” the Klang MP added.

He said one way to tackle the issue and to put pressure on the Myanmar military is by forming an Asean-China corporation.

“We can also get the United Nations (UN) to be part of this corporation, turning it into an Asean-UN-China corporation. This will create a stronger voice.”

The US has imposed targeted sanctions against the junta and its business while Australia suspended military cooperation with the Myanmar military. Some Asean nations, including Malaysia, said they will only establish official ties with a democratically-elected government.

Myanmar’s military government leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is expected to join a special Asean summit in Jakarta this Saturday.

Overthrown politicians and ethnic-minority politicians, who had formed the shadow government, said Asean had not reached out to them. They hoped to be included in the upcoming summit.

Regarding the summit, Santiago said: “It’s pointing towards the formation of some form of mechanism to speak to the junta. An Asean special envoy can initiate talks with the military in a bid to restore democracy.”

“We’ve seen the uprising among the young in Hong Kong, Bangkok, and now in Myanmar. The army didn’t expect this. Now they have gone on an aggressive mode and this could turn out to be a civil war.

“Everyone is against the army and they are fighting back.”

Santiago said what little social status the country had gained over the last six years would be lost following the coup.

The elected government, led by U Nu in 1960, was overthrown by the military two years later. Since then, the military had ruled Myanmar up until the 2015 elections which were won by Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party.

The Nobel laureate and several politicians from her party were arrested by the military following the Feb 1 coup.

“Asean must do something. The political prisoners must be released. And the process to democracy must quickly begin,” Santiago added.