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Myanmar: Human rights must be top priority for emergency ASEAN summit

The catastrophic aftermath of the Myanmar coup is the biggest test in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (ASEAN) history, Amnesty International said today.

The organisation is calling on the regional bloc to prioritise protecting the human rights of people in Myanmar and prevent the situation deteriorating into a human rights and humanitarian crisis.

Amnesty is also urging the Indonesian authorities and other ASEAN member states to investigate Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on credible allegations of responsibility for crimes against humanity in Myanmar. As a state party to the UN Convention Against Torture, Indonesia has a legal obligation to prosecute or extradite a suspected perpetrator on its territory. 

Emerlynne Gil, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Research, said: 

“The Myanmar crisis trigged by the military presents ASEAN with the biggest test in its history. The bloc’s usual commitment to non-interference is a non-starter: this is not an internal matter for Myanmar but a major human rights and humanitarian crisis which is impacting the entire region and beyond.

“The crisis initiated by a murderous and unrepentant Myanmar military has engulfed the country, and will cause severe aftershocks – humanitarian and more – for the entire region, particularly if the military can continue to commit serious violations and crimes with complete impunity. 

“The Indonesian authorities are duty-bound to investigate Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other Myanmar military officials who may join his delegation to Jakarta.  

“The extensively documented allegations against Myanmar’s coup leader, by the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, Amnesty International and many others, must be investigated. The Indonesian authorities and other ASEAN member states cannot ignore the fact Min Aung Hlaing is suspected of the most serious crimes of concern to the international community as a whole.

“There is sufficient evidence to reasonably suspect that Min Aung Hlaing is responsible for crimes under international law, including torture, and this needs highlighting at every opportunity.  

“The deadly operations by the military since the 1 February coup only magnify the urgency of bringing Min Aung Hlaing and other suspected perpetrators to justice. The Indonesian authorities have an obligation to investigate him and must do so. 

The Myanmar military appears to be operating with the assumption of total impunity. The situation today is the direct result of a broader failure by the international community, including the ASEAN, to hold the Myanmar military to account for its past crimes.  

“If not stopped, the violations committed by the Myanmar military will result in escalating violence and conflict, worsening inequality, hunger and mass displacement, including into ASEAN Member States – all amid the COVID-19 pandemic.. 

Amnesty International urges the ASEAN and its Member States to work together and take immediate action to protect the people of Myanmar, prioritising their human rights and to end impunity.

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