What can the ASEAN summit decide on the Myanmar issue?

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – May 09 Scenes

MoeMaKa, May 10 2023

What can the ASEAN summit decide on the Myanmar issue?

At the ASEAN Summit being held from May 9th to 11th, there will be discussions to find a solution to Myanmar’s armed conflict, and there have been predictions that the Myanmar issue is likely to influence the ASEAN Summit. A few days before the ASEAN Summit was to be held, an incident occurred where the convoy of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) was attacked somewhere in Hsi Hseng Township, Southern Shan State.

The attack on the convoy containing diplomats from Indonesia and Singapore to an ethnic armed group, the PNLO liaison office, to provide humanitarian assistance revealed how dangerous the armed conflict in Myanmar is.

It has been two years since Myanmar agreed to implement the ASEAN 5-Point Consensus to resolve the armed conflict and provide humanitarian aid, but there has been no remarkable progress. Under such conditions, questions such as how ASEAN should move forward and how successful the pressure to implement the 5-Point Consensus after suspending Myanmar’s participation in ASEAN meetings can be are also obvious questions at the moment.

In the past few days, Indonesia has revealed to the media that it has been quietly making diplomatic efforts regarding the Myanmar issue for the past 4 months. But it did not reveal the details of the discussion or the results.

It is expected that the National Unity Government will be involved because they are holding meetings with all relevant organizations on the Myanmar issue. ASEAN must first urge the military council to implement the point of immediate cessation of terrorist acts among the 5 points. Since the military council is taking charge of the country’s government, it is the most responsible.

There are still many obstacles to the implementation of another of ASEAN’s 5 points, which is to provide humanitarian assistance.

According to the military’s experience of fighting civil wars, both written strategies, and unwritten strategies applied in practice, in the outbreak of war, the armed forces are not only the ones being targeted, but they are also making the war expand to a wider extent by making the entire local population suffer and flee the war. The military often used such tactics to burden the other armed groups, and it has been exercising the fact that if the armed groups have to provide assistance and care for the local population in a situation where they have to avoid war, they will be less able to focus on the war.

Until now, in addition to using these tactics, the scorched-earth system has been widely used in Sagaing Division, Magway Division, and Chin State, so the military council is aiming to reach a situation where the armed forces cannot fight the war properly since the livelihoods and food of their base areas are destroyed. If you look at these facts, the military council will not want to receive the humanitarian assistance that the international and ASEAN countries want to provide, because it is doing so with the intention of harming the local civilians where the armed conflict occurred.

These conditions are the background conditions of Myanmar, and it will be necessary for a group like ASEAN, which is helping to find a solution to the Myanmar issue, to understand them well.

It must be said that the second point of the 5-Point Consensus, which is the development of a constructive dialogue between all parties concerned in seeking a peaceful solution, is still a long way off.

Regarding the armed conflict in Myanmar for the last 4 months, Indonesia has been working on a 5-Point Consensus behind the curtain: that violence in Myanmar be halted immediately, that all parties concerned engage in constructive dialogue, and that the progress of providing ASEAN humanitarian assistance be monitored, whether there are sufficient efforts or not. We will have to wait and see whether they will be able to evaluate these issues at this month’s ASEAN meeting and decide whether they will be able to adopt the next steps or if they will give up on the Myanmar issue.