Myanmar’s Southeast Asian neighbours issued a stinging rebuke on Tuesday of the ruling military’s execution of four political activists, calling it “highly reprehensible” and destructive to regional efforts to de-escalate the crisis.
The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes Myanmar, said it “denounces and is strongly disappointed” by the executions, as well as by their timing, just a week ahead of the bloc’s next meeting.
“While the complexity of the crisis is well recognised and the extreme bellicose mood can be felt from all corners of Myanmar, ASEAN as a whole has called for utmost restraint,” said Cambodia, this year’s ASEAN chair, in an unusually strong statement.
“The implementation of the death sentences just a week before the 55th ASEAN ministerial meeting is highly reprehensible,” it said, adding that it showed the junta’s “gross lack of will” to support ASEAN’s efforts to facilitate dialogue between the military and its opponents.
Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah also said on Tuesday that his country condemns the Myanmar junta’s execution of the four activists and sees the action as a crime against humanity.
He told a news conference that Myanmar should not be allowed to send political representatives to any international ministerial level meetings, and that the junta was making a mockery of ASEAN’s Five-Point peace plan.
The regional bloc had adopted a consensus at a meeting with Myanmar’s military chief Min Aung Hlaing in April last year, committing to the immediate cessation of violence among other points.
“ASEAN should be also engaging shadow Myanmar government besides the junta,” said Mr Saifuddin, referring to the National Unity Government (NUG) formed in opposition to military rule.
The military, which seized power in a coup last year, announced in state media on Monday that it had executed the activists for aiding “terror acts” by a civilian resistance movement, Myanmar’s first executions in decades.
The news triggered international outrage, with the United States, Britain, Australia, the European Union and senior United Nations officials accusing the junta of cruelty.
It was not clear when the executions took place, or which method was used. Family members on Monday said they were not informed of their loved ones’ executions beforehand, nor allowed to retrieve their bodies.