Patron: Her Excellency The Right Honourable Dame Patsy Reddy, GNZM, QSO, Governor-General of New Zealand

Outlook bleak for Myanmar despite Indonesian-led ASEAN efforts

By Anita Perkins

On 1 February 2021 Myanmar suffered a military takeover.

On 24 April Indonesian President Joko Widodo hosted a summit of ASEAN leaders in an attempt to make headway on the crisis in Myanmar. The summit was attended by Myanmar’s coup leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

Political commentators noted that this was an unusual move for ASEAN which traditionally approaches such matters with quiet diplomacy. Some were sceptical given the less than diplomatic histories of some countries represented at the table.

The outcome of the meeting was a 5-point consensus:

• First, there shall be immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar and all parties shall exercise utmost restraint.

• Second, constructive dialogue among all parties concerned shall commence to seek a peaceful solution in the interests of the people.

• Third, a special envoy of the ASEAN Chair shall facilitate mediation of the dialogue process, with the assistance of the Secretary General of ASEAN.

• Fourth, ASEAN shall provide humanitarian assistance through the AHA Centre [ASEAN’s Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management].

• Fifth, the special envoy and delegation shall visit Myanmar to meet with all parties concerned.

Ben Bland of the Interpreter is dubious of the consensus being adhered to. On 26 April Bland wrote: “The key question now… is whether the junta sticks to the five-point consensus, and what the rest of ASEAN can and will do to ensure this outcome. The chances of success are slim, which is exactly why Indonesia deserves credit for pushing ASEAN to try.”

An article by Jayanta Kalita of the Eurasian Times of 22 May describes Myanmar as ‘bleeding profusely’. “The junta forces have continued their brutal crackdown on civilian protesters, killing over 800 people and detaining more than 4,000 including elected leaders, election commissioners, doctors, journalists, writers, artists, among others in the past three and a half months.”

Former Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is soon to be tried on charges including illegal possession of walkie-talkie radios to violating a state secrets law. Min Aung Hlaing claims that she is in good health. Yet she is not able to talk to her lawyers privately.

Despite international outcry at the junta, peace and democracy appear as unreachable dreams for Myanmar in its current state.