Myanmar’s opposition National Unity Government (NUG) has told the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) not to negotiate with the country’s military junta, warning that the regional political bloc could face legal ramifications given war crimes are under investigation by the United Nations and the International Criminal Court.
The warning was issued as the NUG held an online press conference on Sunday at which it presented details, alongside graphic images, of the latest alleged atrocities committed by the military, this time the airstrike near Pazigyi village, in Sagaing Region’s Kanbalu township in northwestern Myanmar.
According to the NUG, three air attacks on April 11 left 168 people dead, including 46 women and 40 children. The number of wounded in a serious condition numbered 16, among them a pregnant woman and a child who had to endure amputations to save their lives.
Aung Myo Min, the NUG’s minister for human rights, warned ASEAN of legal ramifications if it dealt with the junta, particularly at the upcoming annual summits and meetings to be held in Indonesia, this year’s chair.
“ASEAN cannot work with them, they do not have to work with them. They have been warned that those terrorists will go before the international courts,” he said, referring to the military. “We need a lot of help. People are helpless.”
He urged that further sanctions be imposed on the sale of weapons and aviation fuel along with enforced no-fly zones. He added that the NUG needed medical supplies and bomb-proof bunkers.
ASEAN has condemned the attacks and as current chair Indonesia had indicated it will negotiate with the NUG, despite military objections, and maintain a ban on the junta from attending ASEAN summits.
The attack, perhaps the worst atrocity committed by the military on its own people since the February 2021 coup, was launched by jet fighters around 7:30 a.m. A second wave of helicopter gunships followed before jet fighters returned at 5 p.m. when rescue operations were underway.
“We’re losing a lot of lives,” an NUG spokesperson said. He added that the NUG’s armed wing, the People’s Defense Force (PDF), had been tipped off by its own intelligence networks around air force bases that jet fighters were airborne.
The air attack in Kanbalu followed heavy fighting around Shwe Kokko in Kayin State, which forced about 10,000 civilians to flee across the Thai border close to Mae Sot, about 490 kilometers northwest of Bangkok, over the Easter weekend.
Meanwhile, the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague has been asked to expand its war crimes investigations in Myanmar in response to the March 11 massacre of 29 people in Pinlong, Shan State, and the February 28-March 2 slaughter of 37 people in Tadaing, in Sagaing Region.
Meanwhile, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) added its voice to the loud international chorus condemning the Kanbalu bombings, saying that ASEAN and the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) had routinely failed to hold the Myanmar military accountable.
“In the wake of the junta’s most recent atrocity, ASEAN and the UNSC must act now to ensure the military’s history of impunity ends now or risk an escalation of violence in Myanmar, which will result in further suffering and loss of life,” said APHR Co-Chairperson Charles Santiago.
He also urged ASEAN to refer the junta to the ICC “for their widespread and systematic crimes against civilians” while imposing targeted sanctions on the junta leadership and military-owned companies, as well as companies that supply the junta with aviation fuel.
A bigger call is whether the time has arrived to declare Myanmar a failed state, which was first mooted by the U.N.’s special rapporteur for Myanmar, Tom Andrews, after the Tadaing and Pinlong massacres. The Kanbalu bombings should indicate that this time has arrived.