Myanmar minister joins Southeast Asian defense meeting

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Myanmar’s defense minister, who is under US, UK and other sanctions for violations committed by his country’s armed forces, was invited to the annual meeting with his colleagues from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Wednesday.

General Mya Tun Oo was in his military uniform when he attended ASEAN Meeting of defense ministers in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital.

More than 600 civic groups inside and outside Myanmar have appealed to ministers not to invite him.

They accuse him of complicity in the violence perpetrated by Myanmar’s armed forces seeking to quell opposition to last year’s takeover by the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The Political Prisoners Aid Association, a private organization that tracks killings and arrests by the government, said on Friday that Myanmar security forces have killed 2,000 civilians. The army is also fighting anti-government guerrillas in the countryside.

Mya Tun Oo has also been accused of being involved in atrocities committed by the army against the Rohingya Muslim minority in 2017 while he was chief of the military general staff, the third most important post in the army.

International courts are investigating allegations that the military committed genocide in a brutal counter-insurgency campaign that saw more than 700,000 Rohingyas flee to neighboring Bangladesh for safety.

“The actions of Myanmar’s military junta are fully consistent with the definition of terrorism under international and national law and are responsible for the ongoing violations of international human rights and humanitarian law after the military coup attempt,” 677 civilian groups said in a letter to ASEAN. defense ministers.

“General Mya Tun Oo is playing a leading role in directing the military, which is responsible for the ongoing atrocities with complete impunity,” the statement said.

“Mya Tun Oo’s direct responsibility for violations of international law has been recognized by the US, UK, EU, Canada and New Zealand, who have imposed sanctions on him.” Wai Hnin Pwint Ton of the Burma Campaign UK told The Associated Press that ASEAN does not respect or support the people of Myanmar by inviting Mia Tun Oo to its meeting.

“The military will see this invitation … as an encouragement to continue human rights violations in the country with complete impunity,” she said.

This year Cambodia is chairing ASEAN from 10 countries.

In February, ASEAN foreign ministers held their annual retreat without their Myanmar colleague, who was not allowed to attend but was allowed to attend online as an observer.

ASEAN has sought to mediate the crisis in Myanmar, fearing that its increasingly violent unrest could cause problems at the regional level.

In April last year, consensus was reached on a five-point plan to restore stability, but Myanmar blocked the agreement from being implemented.

Relations escalated further when Myanmar prevented the ASEAN Special Envoy from meeting with Suu Kyi, who was detained after seizing power.

ASEAN, under the leadership of its former chairman Brunei, took the unprecedented step of preventing Myanmar’s military government leader Min Aung Hlaing from attending its annual summit last October.

The joint declaration released after Wednesday’s meeting of defense ministers included a statement of support for a five-point consensus that calls for an immediate end to violence, dialogue among stakeholders, mediation by an ASEAN special envoy, humanitarian assistance, and a visit to Myanmar by a special envoy to meet with all interested parties.

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

He stressed that Myanmar should be included in ASEAN but also expressed pessimism that any progress towards peace could be made this year.

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