A UN expert said on Thursday that the Southeast Asian bloc ASEAN should reconsider its approach to engaging with Myanmar and called for specific action and a time frame to end hostilities in the military-ruled country.
The Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Tom Andrews, also called on UN member states to engage, formally or informally, with Myanmar’s shadow government of national unity (NUG) to help with the humanitarian situation.
The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is divided over how to deal with Myanmar, where the military overthrew an elected government last year and has since unleashed brutal crackdown on opponents.
Soon after its coup, ASEAN members, including Myanmar, came to an agreement to restore peace, but progress has stalled amid weak enforcement.
“(The agreement) is meaningless if it sits on a piece of paper,” Andrews said at a news conference after a six-day visit to Malaysia, one of the most vocal critics of the junta in the region.
“After a year of lack of progress, let’s rethink this approach by adding a strategy for the implementation of that approach,” he said, adding that ASEAN countries should heed Malaysia’s call for more action.
Late last year, ASEAN took the unusual step of ousting Myanmar military leaders from a high-profile regional summit for failing to honor a peace deal.
But current president Cambodia has made a proposal for the junta, despite criticism from activists, including inviting its defense minister to a regional meeting on Wednesday.
Countries have also been divided over how to communicate with the NUG, which is a coalition of anti-junta groups hiding or in self-imposed exile, which Andrews called a “legitimate entity”.
“From a practical point of view … there is a lot of information that (NUG) is available, which can be of extremely valuable use to deliver humanitarian aid to these countries,” he said.
The junta has outlawed the NUG for being a “terrorist” and urged countries not to engage with them.
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