Assessing the Potential Impact of the UN Annual Conference on Myanmar

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – September 24 
Published by MoeMaKa on September 25, 2023

Assessing the Potential Impact of the UN Annual Conference on Myanmar

Amidst the United Nations’ annual conference, keen attention turns towards the statements by the UN Secretary-General, ASEAN nations, and other world leaders regarding Myanmar’s affairs. The influence these speeches may wield over Myanmar’s situation is of paramount interest.

Traditionally convened in September, the United Nations General Assembly has seen several ASEAN member countries advocating for more substantial regional pressure to quell the violence within Myanmar. These nations argue that Myanmar’s internal turmoil significantly impacts neighboring states, prompting calls for support similar to the international response to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, rather than pressuring Myanmar’s democracy movement. Singapore, notably, has underscored the need to treat Myanmar’s issue in Southeast Asia with the same gravity as the Ukraine matter in Europe.

Indonesia, which has assumed the rotating ASEAN chairmanship for 2023, has pledged to persistently encourage Myanmar to execute the 5 Point Consensus, emphasizing that ASEAN remains committed to aiding the people of Myanmar. Malaysia, on the other hand, has urged the United Nations to intensify pressure on the military council. Despite not sharing a direct border with Myanmar, Malaysia grapples with issues tied to hundreds of thousands of Myanmar migrant workers and Rohingya refugees seeking passage through Myanmar and Thailand en route to Malaysia.

Thailand, Myanmar’s neighboring nation with millions of Myanmar migrant workers and refugees, has expressed its dedication to offering humanitarian aid to Myanmar. Thailand maintains a close relationship between its military and the leaders of the Myanmar Military Council. The country also hosts Myanmar’s opposition activists, National Unity Government members, and supporters. Thailand’s stance is one of pragmatic neutrality, seeking to accommodate its national interests and policies. The Pheu Thai Party, which formed the government after recent elections, has not significantly altered its Myanmar policy from the previous coup leadership.

What sets this year apart is the conspicuous absence of discussions concerning Myanmar during the conference by influential neighbors, China and India. China, while not accepting Myanmar refugees like Thailand, has considerable influence with Myanmar’s military leaders and some ethnic armed groups. The country’s extensive investments in Myanmar, including oil and gas pipelines, further underscore its role. China’s perspectives and proposals on the Myanmar issue tend to remain discreet and aligned with ASEAN’s leadership, guided by underlying motivations and attitudes. Their support is expected to be contingent on the force capable of upholding stability in Myanmar, rather than a specific political faction.

Looking ahead following the UN conference, significant policy shifts are unlikely, with neither the representative of the Myanmar Military Council nor the National Unity Government featured in UN proceedings. The decision has been made to retain U Kyaw Moe Tun, Myanmar’s pre-coup UN ambassador. Since the passing of a non-binding resolution by the Security Council last year, there appears to be limited potential for a new resolution, suggesting that the situation is poised to remain unchanged.