Myanmar Crisis: Asean Leaders Must Speak With One Voice

All ASEAN leaders must be well-prepared to be on the same page and speak with one voice in impressing upon General Min Aung Hlaing in the upcoming special ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Saturday.

The special meeting is scheduled to discuss how to deal with the deteriorating situation in Myanmar and its repercussions on the region and beyond.

Chairman of the Asian Peace and Reconciliation Council Prof Dr Sihasak Phuangketkeow said ASEAN should continue to pressure, probe, and prod in pursuit of its efforts to help resolve the situation in Myanmar and to help the people of Myanmar.

In a commentary titled “Myanmar crisis: A Challenge to the ASEAN way” published in Thai PBS World, an online English news website, he said ASEAN leaders have to speak in one voice that the tragic events in Myanmar were of grave concern to its member states.

“The ASEAN leaders must be forthright in addressing the key issues, namely an urgent halt to the violence, the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all the political detainees as well as reinforcing the call for the State Administration Council to enter into constructive dialogue with all the Myanmar parties concerned,” he said.

He added that ASEAN remains divided on how to act on the crisis in Myanmar when some member states such as Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines have been openly critical of Myanmar military regime and on the other hand, the other member states, including Thailand, seemed to be ambiguous in their position, preferring a more passive wait-and-see attitude.

The special ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta this Saturday is unprecedented in the 54-year history of the organisation as it is the first time that ASEAN meets at the highest level to address principally a situation of concern in a fellow member state.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan o-cha confirmed that he will not be attending Saturday’s special meeting and Thailand will be represented by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai.

Former deputy prime minister and foreign minister Sihasak said ASEAN has to be creative in employing a multitrack approach, whereby existing official channels of communication can be augmented and complemented by informal or behind-the-scene diplomacy involving private individuals or organisations to serve as the conduit to build up trust and confidence among the respective parties in Myanmar.

“In the final analysis, the crisis in Myanmar is both a challenge and an opportunity to rethink and reinvigorate the ASEAN way; ultimately, it is about “We the peoples…” as enshrined in the ASEAN Charter. And it is in that spirit that we must not fail the people of Myanmar,” he said.

If ASEAN fails to act on the Myanmar crisis, Sihasak said its community-building efforts, the ongoing economic integration, the cooperative relations with many key dialogue partners – and, significantly, the much-touted ASEAN centrality – would certainly suffer irreparable setbacks.

“What is more, if ASEAN proves itself incapable of managing the affairs of its own region, the case could be made for those outside the region to intervene in advancing their agenda and interests.

“ASEAN then would be confronted with the very real possibility of Myanmar becoming an arena for major power contestations,” he said.

He added that the special ASEAN summit should not be an end in itself, but the beginning of a process of diplomatic engagement on the part of ASEAN.

“To this end, ASEAN should lay out a coherent, coordinated, and creative diplomatic strategy for the way forward,” he said.

Myanmar has been going through upheaval since armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing on Feb 1 ousted an elected government led by democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, with security forces killing more than 700 anti-coup protesters since then.

Source: NAM News Network