Burma Solidarity Group in Sri Lanka demands that Sri Lanka should immediately withdraw the invitation and declare that the Sri Lankan government does not recognize the military led government, and that democracy should be restored in Myanmar.
On 1 February 2020, the Myanmar military forcibly took power from the elected government in a military coup by arresting the de facto head of state, Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior officials from the ruling political party, National League for Democracy (NLD). The same day, the Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing announced a one year state of emergency. The Internet and phone lines have also disrupted in some parts of the country. Since then, elected civilian officers, political activists and human rights defenders have also been arrested across the country. On 3 February, Aung San Suu Kyi was charged for the possession of illegally imported walkie-talkies, a crime which has a maximum three year sentence, and the President of Myanmar, Win Myint, has allegedly been charged with violating COVID-19 election campaign guidelines.
Since the coup, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets to peacefully protest the illegal power grab. They have been met with rubber bullets, tear gas, water cannons, and in some cases, live ammunition and machine guns. As of 11 March, at least 70 peaceful protestors have been murdered by security forces who are said to be following ‘shoot to kill’ orders. At least half of them are reported to be under the age of 25.
In this context, we are shocked to learn that our Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena has written an invitation on 2nd March 2021 inviting the military appointed Wunna Maung Lwin (the current Myanmar Foreign Minister for 17th Ministerial Meeting of the Bay of Bengal initiative for Multi – Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) to be held on 31st March 2021 virtually in Colombo.
While the entire world is criticizing the Myanmar military for toppling an elected government and killing citizens on the streets, the Sri Lankan government’s invitation legitimises this military coup, serving as an insult to the people of Myanmar and its elected leaders.
Sri Lanka should immediately withdraw the invitation and declare that the Sri Lankan government does not recognize the military led government, and that democracy should be restored in Myanmar. The Sri Lankan government must also make an appeal to release its Myanmar’s elected leaders and stop violent attacks against the protesters immediately. These calls must also be echoed at the BIMSTEC meeting, to be held later this month.