July 28, 2022
PHNOM PENH – ASEAN has expressed its disappointment over the execution of four Myanmar opposition activists, declaring the act “highly reprehensible”.
In a July 25 statement, it said the act represented a “gross lack of will” to support the ASEAN chair’s efforts to expedite progress on the implementation of bloc’s Five-Point Consensus (5PC).
“ASEAN denounces and is strongly disappointed by the execution of four opposition activists, despite appeals by Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia, in his capacity as the ASEAN chair, as well as other ASEAN member states, for the sentences to be reconsidered. This is an issue that ASEAN takes seriously,” it said.
According to media reports, Myanmar’s ruling State Administration Council (SAC) announced on July 25 that it had executed four opposition activists accused of aiding “terrorism”.
The four were Phyo Zeyar Thaw, Kyaw Min Yu, Hla Myo Aung and Aung Thura Zaw.
The ASEAN chair’s statement continued that while the complexity of the crisis is well recognised and the extremely bellicose mood could be felt from all corners of Myanmar, ASEAN as a whole has called for the utmost restraint, patience and more efforts to avoid escalating the situation.
The implementation of the capital punishment came just a week before the 55th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting, scheduled to be hosted by Cambodia from July 31 to August 6 in Phnom Penh.
“This act is highly reprehensible as it has created a setback to and presented a gross lack of will to support the efforts, particularly by the ASEAN chair, in expediting progress on the implementation of the 5PC, namely in building trust and confidence to engender a dialogue among all parties concerned in order to end violence and alleviate the suffering of the innocent people.
“ASEAN remains committed to the principles of the ASEAN Charter and the mandate of the consensus. Cambodia, as ASEAN chair, wishes to echo the overwhelming voices within ASEAN and the international community in urging the authorities in Naypyidaw to take concrete action to effectively and fully implement the 5PC,” it added.
ASEAN strongly and urgently called on all parties concerned to desist from taking actions that would only further aggravate the crisis, hinder peaceful dialogue among all parties concerned, and endanger peace, security and stability, not only in Myanmar but the whole region.
The bloc announced its commitment to assisting in Myanmar’s return to normalcy and democratic transition, reiterating that it would work to find a peaceful political solution to the current crisis through inclusive dialogue that is “Myanmar-led and Myanmar-owned”.
“This is urgently needed to prevent the further loss of lives and end the suffering of the people of Myanmar,” it said.
Last month, Prime Minister Hun Sen sent a letter to SAC chairman Senior General Min Aung Hlaing urging him to reconsider plan to execute the opposition activists, as it had sparked great concern among the ASEAN member states – as well as the bloc’s external partners.
Yong Kim Eng, president of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace, told The Post on July 26 that the issue is a lesson for ASEAN, and that it needs to reconsider whether its non-interference policy means democratic systems can be easily built in all member states or not. ASEAN should also consider taking serious action against the Myanmar leadership, to prevent the execution of more opposition politicians.
“ASEAN, which is committed to establishing peace, must now ask itself – is it possible? Can there be lasting peace in the future if one of its member countries is not prepared to cooperate with its policies?” he asked rhetorically.
“ASEAN should employ specific measures that put pressure on the regime, so it will return to the practice of democracy, and free and fair elections,” he added.
Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said the SAC’s act was “arrogant”, showed a lack of integrity and goodwill, and was not honest in its intention of implementing the 5PC to which it was a signatory.
“What they have done will isolate Myanmar and its leadership even more from the international community. It is also unacceptable to ASEAN, a regional bloc with a cultural of non-interference in the internal affairs of its members.
“The Myanmar people are growing more hostile with each brutal act by the military, and the crisis is deepening. It will be especially difficult to reconcile and find solutions because it appears some of the politicians involved are criminals,” he said.