The Five Point Consensus on Myanmar issued by the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting on 24 April 2021 could be an important step towards ending violent repression by the military junta in Myanmar. Just prior to the meeting the Indonesian government, which hosted the emergency summit in Jakarta, sent a clear message that the military must restore democracy and stop committing violence against citizens.
This puts in context Point 1 of the Five-Point Consensus calling for “an immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar.” The killing must stop. But this killing is not instigated by the widespread Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) – a peaceful movement trying to regain democratic rights and freedoms in the face of military repression. The military order to “annihilate protestors” must be rescinded and the military must go back to barracks.
The Point 2 in the Five-Point Consensus calls for “constructive dialogue among all parties concerned shall commence to seek a peaceful solution in the interests of the people.” This is welcomed by many as a first step to peace and restoring Myanmar’s path to democracy.
But constructive dialogue is not possible if elected political leaders, opposition politicians, human rights defenders and trade unionists remain in detention facing charges. Dialogue through prison bars is impossible.
Dialogue is also impossible when the military is still searching for trade unionists and human rights defenders wanted for their role in the Civil Disobedience Movement. In addition to this, medical and health workers are detained or being hunted for joining the the Civil Disobedience Movement and providing medical aid to injured protesters.
All of them must be released immediately and unconditionally. This demand is reflected in the ASEAN Chairman’s statement on the meeting: “We also heard calls for the release of all political prisoners including foreigners.” But it did not find its way into the Five-Point Consensus.
The immediate release of all political prisoners must be the 6th point if the other 5 points are to have any real meaning.