William Wynne – ASEAN needs to know what people ask for in Myanmar

Photo – ASEAN

William Wynne – ASEAN needs to know what people ask for in Myanmar

(မိုးမခ) စက်တင်ဘာ ၆ ၊ ၂၀၂

Heads of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) joined in Indonesia’s capital on 4 September 2023, with the long-lasting political catastrophe in Myanmar and disputes in the South China Sea anticipated on the agenda. Malaysia called on its Southeast Asian partners to impose “strong” measures against Myanmar’s ruling generals, saying “obstacles” they created had blocked a peace plan for the strife-torn country, states Reuters.

Malaysia and some members gave their opinions that they cannot allow the peace plan to continue without strong and effective measures imposed on the junta as Malaysian foreign minister Zambry Abdul Kadir told reporters after the discussions in the Indonesian capital. However, he did not identify the other members of ASEAN who shared his view.

Surprisingly an outspoken message from Malaysia came as top Southeast Asian diplomats met to review ASEAN’s delayed peace plan for Myanmar.  Some ASEAN members’ dissatisfaction is increasing with the military junta as it fails to stop various violence including war crimes more than two years after its ruthless coup.

People are more and more fed up with ASEAN’s attempts towards one of its members, Burma, or Myanmar. Myanmar has been devastated by lethal slaughters since a brutal military coup carried out by an imbecilic senior-general who overthrew the parliamentary government in February 2021, suppressed through a bloody crackdown on opposition.

ASEAN leaders are meeting in Jakarta this week to discuss the Myanmar crisis, a code of conduct for the South China Sea, the region’s economy, transnational crime, and additional issues. ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus concerning Myanmar announced in April 2021 states that, “there shall be immediate termination of violence in Myanmar and all parties shall exercise utmost restraint”, whereas the celebrated UN Security Council resolution on Myanmar in December 2022 demanded “an immediate end to all forms of violence throughout the country and urges restraint and de-escalation of tensions.”

Notably, ASEAN intends to promote regional peace and stability through respect for justice and the rule of law and adherence to the principles of the U.N. Charter. Nevertheless, most member states close their eyes and ears while extrajudicial killings, violence against women and children, burning down villages throughout the country and using airstrikes on public areas take place daily in Myanmar.

So far, there has been a reign of terror rather than law and order under the murderous military junta. Consequently, ASEAN has a visible flaw that fail to take an appropriate action on Myanmar junta.  It has been obviously watching bloodstained extrajudicial killings and atrocious war-crimes in Myanmar. The organization is unwilling to take a bold step yet.

Due to ASEAN’s non-intervention clause, the junta has been taking advantage to abuse human rights aggressively under the umbrella of ASEAN.

The chief of the United Nations humanitarian relief agency Martin Griffiths has urged Myanmar’s junta to let greater authorization to 1.8 million people in need of humanitarian assistance pointing out critical situation consequences of civil strife after the 2021-coup.

Cambodia’s new prime minister, Hun Manet, making his debut at an international gathering as leader, referred to “constructive dialogue”, recounting how his father, former Prime Minister Hun Sen, visited Myanmar in 2022 – to advocate reducing tensions and allowing constructive dialogue among relevant stakeholders to achieve enduring peace. For several years, ASEAN has managed under ‘the principle of noninterfering’ in each other’s internal affairs and reaching agreement by consensus.

In her opening remarks as chair of ASEAN, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said, “ASEAN can only steam forward in full power if we can ensure a peaceful and lasting solution in Myanmar”.

Indonesia, which has urged unity amid growing skepticism of the grouping’s credibility, has been conducting behind-the-scenes efforts to find a solution to Myanmar’s turmoil but has little to show for its effort, according to AP News.

Southeast Asian leaders led by Indonesian host President Joko Widodo are gathering in their final summit this year, besieged by divisive issues with no solutions about to happen for Myanmar’s deadly civil strife by reason of new flare-ups in the disputed South China Sea, and the long-lasting United States-China rivalry.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations meetings are taking place this week in the Indonesian capital Jakarta under tight security. The absence of U.S. President Joe Biden, who usually attends, adds to the already gloomy backdrop of the ASEAN’s conventional show of unity and greetings.

ASEAN foreign ministers gathered one day ahead of the leaders’ summit. Mohammad Mahfud, Indonesia’s coordinating minister in charge of political, legal and security affairs, told the region’s top diplomats that their “community’s strength is being challenged by one crisis after another.” (AP News)

According to Mahfud, a lack of progress in efforts to resolve the Myanmar crisis has left a negative mark on the bloc. He also warned that “accelerating geopolitical tension and rivalries could lead to open conflict that the region will be forced to face.” 

The coup wrecked a 10-year democratic practices and plunged the country into chaos. As a result, the junta has been battling its opponents or people’s defense forces (PDFs) throughout the country at present. Meanwhile, one member of the junta-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party said that it was likely ‘elections will be held in early 2025,’ without elaborating.

‘Elections are likely to be held in 2025,’ a senior member of the military-backed party told AFP on 5 September, requesting anonymity.

At the same time, the mainstream people of Myanmar have made up their mind clearly to overthrow the military’s ruling and will not accept any of junta-run elections. As a result, people can easily predict that a large majority of voters would boycott the elections run by the junta. People wouldn’t be likely to cast their votes under menace.

Certainly, the junta-run voting parade seems to be confronted with substantial violence on election day, because its enemies or PDFs seriously resist the junta-run elections.

Hence, junta-run elections may do nothing to resolve the root-cause of the ongoing political disaster and would probably be increasing tension and instability in the disastrous country. So, ASEAN needs to give a clear warning to the illegitimate régime that it will not recognize the junta-proposed sham election any time in forthcoming years.

Such an act of the association would likely go along with Myanmar people’s genuine demand.


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