A Myanmar junta delegation is participating in the 89th INTERPOL General Assembly in Istanbul, Turkey next week as the country’s official representatives, Myanmar Now has confirmed.
According to a senior Myanmar police source, Lt-Gen Than Hlaing is heading the contingent, likely by video link.
The three-day meeting to address “global security issues” is scheduled to begin on November 23.
Than Hlaing was appointed deputy home affairs minister on February 2, the day after military chief Min Aung Hlaing toppled Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in a coup. He is also the junta’s chief of police.
Canada, the EU, UK and US have sanctioned Than Hlaing for his role overseeing the junta’s crackdown on the public, in which more than 1,200 civilians have been killed and more than 10,000 arrested, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which has been monitoring the ongoing repression.
The EU sanctions designation stated that Than Hlaing is “directly responsible for decision making concerning repressive policies and violent actions committed by police against peaceful demonstrators and is therefore responsible for serious human rights violations in Myanmar/Burma.”
The EU concluded that Than Hlaing “is engaged in actions and policies undermining democracy and the rule of law in Myanmar/Burma, as well as actions that threaten the peace, security and stability of Myanmar/Burma.”
Than Hlaing is also reported to be in charge of Operation Anawrahta, a major military offensive in northwestern Myanmar—including Chin State and Sagaing and Magway regions—in which civil society organisations have accused the Myanmar army of violating international law.
INTERPOL operates from the European Union; its General Secretariat is located in France, and the current Secretary-General, Jürgen Stock, is German.
Myanmar Now sent repeated requests for comment to the INTERPOL General Secretariat, asking about the organisation’s recognition of the Myanmar military junta, the participation of Than Hlaing in the General Assembly and whether INTERPOL had consulted the National Unity Government (NUG), which has a home affairs ministry. At the time of reporting, INTERPOL had not yet provided comment.
A policy officer at the INTERPOL National Central Bureau in Turkey, the assembly’s host country, would not confirm or deny Than Hlaing’s participation, telling Myanmar Now that details about delegates were “confidential” and referring the questions to the Myanmar authorities.
When asked if INTERPOL recognised the military junta, the policy officer said, “Myanmar is a member country, but I don’t know about the politics.”
According to an INTERPOL organisational chart published online in 2014, the Myanmar police chief is in charge of Myanmar’s INTERPOL National Central Bureau.
However, Myanmar Now could not find any record of an INTERPOL decision to recognise the Myanmar military junta as the country’s government and allow the junta to represent Myanmar.
Moe Zaw Oo, Deputy Foreign Minister for the NUG, questioned whether INTERPOL’s invitation to the Myanmar military junta is in line with the organisation’s Constitution, which states that INTERPOL is to conduct activities in “the spirit” of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and enshrines the principle of political neutrality. He called for the military council’s invitation to be reviewed.
“Interpol has to be mindful of the fact that the military junta has been terrorising the Myanmar public and has thus become a terrorist organisation. It also has to examine if the invitation of the junta to this conference might be in line with its principle of political neutrality,” Moe Zaw Oo said.
INTERPOL, or the International Criminal Police Organisation, is an inter-governmental organisation of police forces from 194 countries. The organisation facilitates international police cooperation, including the sharing of data, and provides technical and operational support for global investigations.
As the Myanmar INTERPOL representative, the Myanmar military junta would have access to 14 global databases which include forensic data, travel and official documents and foreign terrorist fighters.