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ASEAN petitioned to establish fact-finding mission for Burma


The Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO) and lawyers from the Philippines and Indonesia petitioned the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat in Jakarta on Aug. 11 to establish a permanent envoy to Burma. 

“The current ‘revolving door’ policy where there is a new ASEAN envoy every year, allows the junta to run rings around [ASEAN]. We need a permanent office for an ASEAN envoy that is permanently focused on Myanmar, monitoring the situation there on a long-term basis, tracking crimes and coming up with innovative ideas to promote justice, peace and stability,” said Salai Za Uk, CHRO deputy director.

Human rights lawyers from the Philippines signed the petition and called on ASEAN to create a fact-finding mission to investigate war crimes in Burma. “In addition, we’d like to see a fact-finding mission regarding alleged war crimes and other international crimes in Myanmar; and, further down the road, a regional criminal tribunal, or a comparable justice process, to hold perpetrators accountable,” said Romel Bagares, a lawyer in Manila. 

Other signatories of the petition include the Indonesian legal scholars Feri Amsari and Shaleh Al Ghifari. The two initiated legal proceedings against Burma’s military regime at Indonesia’s Constitutional Court on the basis of universal jurisdiction. Universal jurisdiction is a legal principle that states that countries and global organizations can claim jurisdiction regarding crimes against international law that occurred in other nations. 

Indonesia is one of the members of ASEAN that recognizes universal jurisdiction. “The Constitutional Court made clear to us that it supported universal jurisdiction and regional approaches to accountability in Myanmar and that is precisely what we are proposing: a regional solution to a regional crisis,” said Feri Amsari. 

The petition was welcomed by Burmese human rights activists. “As a survivor of the military’s massacre of over 3,000 peaceful protesters during the 1988 democracy movement, I welcome this historic petition to ASEAN. It is past time ASEAN and the international community corrected their course and took actions to achieve justice and accountability for the people of Myanmar,” said Khin Ohmar, the founder and chairperson of Progressive Voice. 

Other countries around the world have opened up cases against Burma on the basis of universal jurisdiction. In 2019, The Gambia opened its Rohingya genocide case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In 2021, an Argentine court opened an investigation of crimes committed against the Rohingya under universal jurisdiction.

At least 3,912 people in Burma have been killed by the military regime since its 2021 coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). It states that a total of 24,244 people have been arrested since 2021 and 19,738 are still being arbitrarily in regime prisons. The Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar (IIMM) – set up by the U.N. in 2018 – stated on Aug. 7 that the military and its pro-regime forces are increasingly committing “frequent and brazen war crimes” in Burma.


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