7 September 2023
Australia Urged to Act on The 2 Year Anniversary of People’s Defence Day
The 7th of September marks the second anniversary of Defense Day, as the People’s Defense Force (PDF) and the people of Myanmar continue to fight for democracy and freedom against the oppressive military junta. The recent ASEAN Summit’s “Review and Decision” on the failed Five Point Consensus has faced criticism for not having clear actions and accountability measures. Moreover, the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM-Plus) has continued enabling the junta’s brutal actions. Given these concerns, Australia can no longer defer to ASEAN alone to resolve the Myanmar crisis.
Australia must take proactive action to restore democracy in Myanmar, to ensure that the people of Myanmar are able to exercise their right to self-determination. The Myanmar Campaign Network (MCN) is calling on the Australian Government to stand in solidarity with the people of Myanmar and the legitimate government, the National Unity Government (NUG), by answering their plea for targeted sanctions against the junta and its affiliated businesses.
Despite upholding the decision to deny the junta non-political representation at the ASEAN Summit and ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, Myanmar military representatives have been granted leadership roles at an ASEAN military level. Myanmar and Russia remain co-chairs of the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus Experts’ Working Group on Counter-Terrorism. This group held counter-terrorism tabletop exercises in Myanmar in August with field training exercises to take place in Russia in September. Additionally, the ADMM-Plus Maritime Security Conference and Future Leaders’ Programme will take place from 12 – 14 September in Hawaii with junta representatives invited.
Tasneem Roc, Campaign Manager for Myanmar Campaign Network said, “Calling for cessation of violence while actively assisting sanctioned war criminals is a violation of the ASEAN Charter, which calls for peaceful settlement of disputes and protection of human rights. It is not just a failure of the ASEAN 5 Point Consensus, but a failure of ASEAN itself. As a leading democratic nation in the region Australia must take the action that ASEAN cannot. ”
While the Myanmar military has a robust arms production capability, it relies on foreign revenue to procure aircraft, aviation fuel, and spare parts, often from countries like Russia, China, India, Singapore, and Thailand. The junta has imported over USD 1 billion in arms & raw materials to manufacture weapons. Since the Myanmar junta announced a 51% increase in the regime’s military spending for the fiscal year 2023-2024, from USD 1.8 billion to USD 2.7 billion, targeted sanctions are crucial to sever their access to foreign revenue. The MCN stresses the importance of sanctioning state-owned enterprises in sectors such as oil and gas, mining, timber, gems, and banking, as well as imposing asset freezes and travel bans on senior military officials, members of the State Administration Council and appointed ministers.
Following the 2021 coup, the situation in Myanmar remains dire, with over 19,857 political prisoners enduring inhumane conditions and more than 4,043 lives lost, including women and children, due to the military’s actions. From February 1, 2021, to August 29, 2023 the junta carried out relentless airstrikes for 526 days resulting in the loss of 511 civilian lives and 185 members of the People’s Defense Force (PDF). Adding to the devastation, Myanmar’s military and affiliated groups have also burned down an estimated 74,874 civilian houses since the coup, leaving communities in ruins.
The people of Myanmar have displayed remarkable resilience in their fight for democracy and freedom against brutal military atrocities. The People’s Defense Force, a coalition of various groups and individuals, has emerged in response to military violence, dedicated to protecting people’s lives and livelihoods. The people of Myanmar are committed to ending military dictatorship and establishing a federal democracy while upholding human rights at times sacrificing their own lives. It is crucial for the international community, including Australia, to take immediate action, such as imposing targeted sanctions on those responsible for ongoing atrocities and supporting legitimate interim institutions like the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), National Unity Government (NUG), and National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), in order to remove the military from politics, and achieve justice and accountability in Myanmar.
Myanmar Campaign Network
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