136 CSOs’ open letter – The upcoming 5th BIMSTEC Summit on March 30 in Sri Lanka must respect calls from Myanmar democracy movement
Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), comprised of seven countries from South Asia and Southeast Asia namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand, is scheduled to hold its 5th Summit on March 30 which will be hosted by Sri Lanka.
The biennial summit is a conference where leaders of member states come together to discuss and make highest policy decisions for peace, prosperity and sustainability of Bay of Bengal region. The 4th summit held in Nepal in 2018 was attended by Myanmar president U Win Myint.
On 1st, February, 2021, Myanmar military attempted to seize power from the civilian government. It has been 400 days since for Myanmar people of all ethnics and religions, who have categorically rejected and resisted the military’s coup attempt, risking their lives to defend democracy and end military tyranny by all means as they strive for a federal democratic system. To this end, the military junta’s coup attempt to seize control of the country has failed.
Coup leader Min Aung Hlaing sent his remark representing Myanmar at the 24th anniversary of BIMSTEC in June 2021 and in BIMSTEC’s announcement of his message, he was referred to as honorary chairman of the State Administration Council of Myanmar. In December 2021, Myanmar military was invited to take part in military exercises of BIMSTEC countries in India and, in addition, there are records that Myanmar military representatives attended many of BIMSTEC meetings as country representatives.
Most of the members of BIMSTEC are democracy countries, yet BIMSTEC have provided legitimacy to the Myanmar military that is a terrorist organization that has killed 2,313 people just because they protested against the military and detained 11,564 civilians (Grim data collected by the Media Monitoring Collective, MMC from February 2021 to January 2022). The Junta has arrested democracy and human rights activists and defenders and deliberately targeting civilians with airstrikes, ground military attacks, setting villages on fires and committing mass killings. The military’s campaign of terror has forced over 500,000 people to flee their homes, further deepening the humanitarian crisis. These grave violations of human rights amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes that have been collectively condemned by the people of Myanmar and international community together.
BIMSTEC risks compliciting in Myanmar military’s atrocities crimes by continuing to invite
coup leader Min Aung Hlaing as representative of Myanmar to the 5th BIMSTEC summit in 2022 as it will lend legitimacy to the Myanmar military and further embolden them to continue its atrocity crimes against the people.
Such action will only cause additional pain and serve as salt to the wound of the people of Myanmar who are already suffering from atrocities by Myanmar military on a daily basis.
We, the undersigned organizations in solidarity with Myanmar across the globe demand the following:
- BIMSTEC must disassociate itself and cut all ties with the military council members which was established by the Myanmar military who have been accused of committing genocide, war crimes and many acts of crimes against humanity.
- The demands of democracy movement and spring revolution of Myanmar people must be respected and recognized.
- There cannot be a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable Bay of Bengal region, if democracy and human rights cease to thrive. We call on leaders of BIMSTEC member states to discuss and decide on the issues of Myanmar in consideration of humanity and human dignity.
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