July 27, 2022
JAKARTA – It is indeed regrettable that Indonesia failed at the earliest opportunity to join the global condemnation leveled against the ruthless act of Myanmar junta leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who had executed four pro-democracy activists.
Technically, Jakarta’s muteness was very likely because Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi is accompanying President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo on his tour to China, Japan and South Korea. But the Foreign Ministry should already have a mechanism in place to respond to such an extraordinary event when the minister is not in town.
The Myanmar junta announced on Monday that it had executed Phyo Zeya Thaw, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw. The last two were found guilty of killing an alleged informer for the junta.
State news outlet Global News Light of Myanmar reported that the four men had been executed because they “gave directives, made arrangements and committed conspiracies for brutal and inhumane terror acts”. They were sent to court for alleged breach of the counterterrorism law.
ASEAN should take tough action against the cold-blooded Myanmar junta leader for killing citizens on charges he himself had fabricated, which only undermines the Five-Point Consensus he has pledged to implement. The regional grouping will only humiliate itself to the world if it stops at condemning or deploring the general for his brutality.
As the de-facto leader of ASEAN, Retno should initiate a drastic measure by the regional bloc to punish Hlaing as the execution of people because of their political views is unacceptable. Shame on any ASEAN member that chooses to remain supportive of the junta.
Led by President Jokowi, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Malaysian leaders, ASEAN has excluded Myanmar from any official agenda, although just recently Cambodia, the rotating ASEAN chair, invited the junta’s representative to the ASEAN Defense Ministerial Meeting.
Now President Jokowi should show the world that ASEAN cannot tolerate the barbaric acts of Gen. Hlaing. ASEAN’s silence would only send the wrong signal that it condoned the brutality. In fact, ASEAN’s disunity in responding to the Myanmar cause has raised questions about the group’s good will to help people in the country out of the protracted crisis.
Hlaing has acted as an “angel of death” to scare anyone who dares to criticize him and the junta. His cruelty is comparable to other dictators who use terror to hold on to power. Perhaps North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-un could rival Hlaing in this case.
The junta will never hesitate to eliminate those who dare to challenge it. It does not care about world condemnation, even ASEAN’s boycott, simply because of support from some neighbors, including in ASEAN.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), which keeps a toll of those killed, jailed or detained by the Myanmar military, more than 14,800 people have been arrested since the military launched the Feb. 1, 2021 coup against Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, with an estimated 2,114 killed.
We call on Retno to initiate an emergency meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers to discuss collective actions against the Myanmar junta for its blatant contempt of the five-point agreement, which otherwise would bring peace and democracy back to the country.