ASEAN mulls next steps for rebel junta

September 26, 2022

JAKARTA – ASEAN foreign ministers intend to meet in Jakarta next month ahead of another regional summit without Myanmar, after agreeing the junta’s progress was insufficient to honor a consensus to reach to national reconciliation.

More than a year after the nine ASEAN leaders and junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing agreed to the terms set out in the Five Point Consensus (5FP), the regime has defied its duties while overseeing a nationwide crackdown aimed at suppressing the millions of people opposed to military rule.

ASEAN is currently considering additional measures to impose on Myanmar, with Indonesia offering to host a meeting to work out the details, its head of diplomacy has revealed.

On the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, United States, last week, Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi held bilateral and multilateral talks with her regional counterparts to discuss preparations for the next ASEAN summit in Cambodia.

At the informal ASEAN ministerial meeting, Retno urged regional leaders to specifically address the topic of FP5 implementation at the November summit, after it was made clear to everyone that the regime had no intention of honoring the consensus. The other foreign ministers accepted the suggestion.

“We have no bad intentions. We just want to nudge [the junta and the opposition] sit down, reconcile and talk about their future. This is not a form of interference, nor does ASEAN interfere in the internal affairs of its member states. We are only helping sit them down to talk,” Retno told reporters in New York on Thursday.

At a ministerial meeting in Phnom Penh in August, the regional bloc gave Myanmar’s military rulers until November to show good faith before ASEAN leaders decide on further steps.

So far, the group has banned political representatives from Myanmar from joining regional meetings and has engaged with various opposition circles, including the shadow government, the National Unity Government (NUG).

However, the group is likely to remain cautious and avoid any measures that would be counterproductive to ongoing efforts. “What is important is that we do not intend to expel Myanmar from ASEAN, but we must respect the principles of the ASEAN Charter,” Retno said.

On the agenda are efforts to engage more closely with other countries that share borders with Myanmar – China, India and Bangladesh – to ensure they understand and support what Myanmar is doing. ASEAN.

International fury

Despite its best intentions, the international response to the crisis by ASEAN and other parties so far has “deeply disappointed” the people of Myanmar, UN Special Rapporteur for Myanmar Tom Andrews said on Wednesday. at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Myanmar’s military commits war crimes and crimes against humanity on a daily basis, including sexual violence, torture, deliberate attacks on civilians and killings,” Andrews said.

He said it was “time to rethink what the whole world is doing and, more importantly, what it is not doing to deal with this worsening crisis”.

In his address to the UNGA on Friday, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob also expressed his disappointment at the lack of significant progress in implementing FP5.

“In its current form, the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus cannot last. Therefore, this consensus must be given a new lease of life and refined on the basis of a framework, a timetable and a goal. final clearer,” he said.

Earlier this week, Malaysia also expressed hope that the UN Security Council will take action on Myanmar. The council is currently considering a draft resolution that calls for an end to violence and includes the threat of sanctions.

However, China and Russia have vetoed previous attempts to establish the council, which are likely to shield Myanmar from international scrutiny.

Hun Sen, leader of the current ASEAN chair, Cambodia, acknowledged the complexity of the situation in his own address to the UNGA on Friday.

“Indeed, the situation in Myanmar is worrying, with its direct implications for the security and stability of the entire region. But we must recognize that the crisis is complex, with root causes. As ASEAN Chair, Cambodia is fully committed to helping Myanmar resolve the crisis,” the Cambodian Prime Minister said.

Centrality issue

In addition to the internal challenges ASEAN faces, Retno said the bloc also faces the external challenge of growing geopolitical competition in the Indo-Pacific that centers on containment.

To deal with this situation, which Cambodian Hun Sen describes as the “rise of mini-security alliances” and “growing threats to multilateralism”, ASEAN defended the ASEAN perspectives on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), which place regional cooperation in the context of development.

Retno revealed that a new concept document is being drafted as a way to implement AOIP. Once ready, it would be shared between ASEAN member states but also partner countries in the region.

“Since last year, we have been promoting ASEAN perspectives on the Indo-Pacific. Now we are [preparing] how to translate and implement the concept,” the minister said on Thursday.

In an effort to facilitate the implementation of the AOIP, Retno said Indonesia will host the ASEAN Indo-Pacific Infrastructure Forum next year.

“As an ASEAN country, our approach has always been development-oriented, because that’s what we need right now,” she said.

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