The 3rd test for ASEAN

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – February 04 Scenes
MoeMaKa, February 05 2023 

The 3rd test for ASEAN


It has been 2 years since Myanmar started facing the political crisis, and now the third country has entered the 3rd year as the rotating chairman of ASEAN. It was Brunei that took the ASEAN chair in the first year of the coup, and between February 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021, an emergency meeting for Myanmar was held in Jakarta. Prior to that, there was an informal meeting of foreign ministers in Thailand and in the annual meeting of ASEAN after 2021, due to the military council’s failure to fulfill the ASEAN’s 5-Point Consensus agreed upon in April of that year, it was decided that they would not welcome Myanmar’s political appointees to the annual conference of ASEAN after 2021.


Since the end of the first year, ASEAN began to pressure and punish Myanmar diplomatically. It will also be judged that Brunei has not been able to make significant changes in its turn to take charge. ASEAN must view the Myanmar issue as a problem related to regional countries rather than just internal affairs due to its consequences of the conflict and lawlessness that may directly affect some of the bordering member states. The problems include the refugee problem, the problem of illegal entry for employment opportunities along with the economic crisis, the problem of increased production of drugs and a potential problem for arms smuggling and criminal gangs to grow.


However, in the first year, there was no success and effective cooperation, and the time was spent only on punitive punishments. As the foreign minister of an ASEAN country, he took the role of the ASEAN special representative and negotiated a visit to Myanmar, but the military council completely denied him the opportunity to meet with the opposition leaders who were arrested and tried in court, making the trip impossible.


In the second year, 2022, the country that chaired was Cambodia and its Prime Minister, Hun Sen, who knew the nature of a dictator and held power himself for decades, assumed that he could persuade the Myanmar military dictator to some extent. The foreign minister of the rotating chairman’s country visited Myanmar, and Hun Sen himself also visited. Hun Sen was unable to moderate the military council, to make him negotiate with opposition leaders and to get opposition leaders to be released from custody. The military council was only determined to launch a military offensive on the main armed opposition PDFs, KNU, KIA and AA by cutting off food, medicine and funding and making them weak.


Hun Sen’s official visit to Myanmar did not resolve the political crisis in Myanmar. In the end, he said that the solution to Myanmar’s political problem would only be handed over to the country that will take the chair in the next years. He also commented that if the concerned parties involved in Myanmar’s political crisis do not have the will to resolve the issue, organizations from outside countries cannot do anything.


In the year 2023, the turning point will be Indonesia, a country that has been able to change economic and political reforms in Southeast Asia with the least bloodshed, a country that has been able to walk steadily on the road to progress, and a country that has influence in the region. There are hopes that either Indonesia will be able to explain and persuade the military dictators from their experiences in history or they will make full use of ASEAN’s authority to make the military dictators listen. 


In that situation, the problem of Myanmar is getting deeper and deeper. Nearly 3,000 civilians have lost their lives, and tens of thousands of houses have been destroyed by fire, and tens of thousands of people have been arrested and sentenced in prisons. It is also a very difficult situation for both parties to meet and talk in the conflict.


These conditions are like a test that will examine Indonesia, which will take the role of rotating chairmanship in 2023.