As a new sub-regional grouping named BIST-EC (Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand Economic Cooperation) was previously formed on 6 June 1997 in Thailand. Later, Myanmar was included in it on 22 December 1997. In 1998, Nepal became only an observer and remained in the same status until it became a full member In February 2004; and Bhutan also got the full membership in the same year.
Later, on 31 July 2004, in the first Summit of the group, it was renamed as the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). The objectives of the organization were headed to resolve issues related to 14 main sectors of BIMSTEC along with technological and economic cooperation, public health, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism and transnational crime environment and disaster management, people-to-people contact among the south Asian and southeast Asian countries along the coast of the Bay of Bengal.
As the BIMSTEC uses the alphabetical order for the chairmanship, Nepal chaired the 4th summit held in 2018, and since then Sri Lanka has been holding the position. Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the 5th summit is still in due to happen. However, there is going to take place a ministerial level virtual meeting of the organization on Thursday. For the preparation of the meeting, a secretariat level meeting, that discussed and finalized the agenda to be presented in the higher level meeting, was virtually held on Wednesday.
But it is reported that no authorized participants of any member-nations, including Nepal, in the meeting raised the issue of Myanmar violence ignited following the last military coup on 1 february. If the issue is undermined in such an international forum formed with the aim of establishing peace and prosperity in the region, it will make the Burmese people really upset, and at the same time, human rights and humanitarian philosophies will be ridiculed.
The spontaneous protests against the step of the Myanmar's military to seize the power of an elected government and to detain the representatives of the people there have been continuing in increasing rate even after the military ruler's inhuman suppression and oppression over the peaceful protesters killing more than 500 unarmed people. In such a tumultuous situation, the military has not shown any affection on its own subjects, nor has given any reliable signal to step back intending to return the power to the elected civilians. So, the ministerial level meeting going to be held soon might be a right place to discuss the issue and seek for a right solution. The meeting could strongly oppose the military action paving way for it to move back and correct its unlawful action. No international law provides rights and authorities to fire on peaceful protesters. No humanitarian viewpoints add sympathy on the cruel dictatorship resulting on the killings of hundreds of thousands of people of any age shooting blindly in a mass.
Therefore, it is the most appropriate time to bring into practice the motto of forming BIMSTEC. It is the time to protect human rights of the Burmese people. It is the best opportunity to the BIMSTEC nations to show their strength in problem-solving sector. For also the Myanmar's military, it might be a reason to turn back keeping its self-esteem intact. But if the issue is not given priority in this meeting, we can guess, no Burmese supporters of independence and democracy will ever believe in any so-called international organizations in the future.
America, Japan and few other western countries have taken a little bit harder steps against the military junta, but it is not enough. Myanmar's neighbouring countries, specially India and China, needs to open their mouth widely to end the violence and harmonize the current socio-political scenario of Myanmar. To do so is their responsibility, too as they are the Myanmar's closest neighbours.