Myanmar crisis International

ASEAN leaders demand Myanmar coup leaders end killings

In this photo released by Indonesian Presidential Palace, ASEAN leaders convene during their meeting at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia, Saturday, April 24, 2021. Southeast Asian leaders met Myanmar's top general and coup leader in an emergency summit in Indonesia on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: AP

Southeast Asian leaders demanded an immediate end to killings and the release of political detainees in Myanmar in an emergency summit with its top general and coup leader Saturday in the Indonesian capital, Indonesia's president said.

The leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) also told Senior General Min Aung Hlaing during the two-hour talks in Jakarta that a dialogue between contending parties in Myanmar should immediately start, with the help of ASEAN envoys, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said.

Unusual blunt

“The situation in Myanmar is unacceptable and should not continue. Violence must be stopped, democracy, stability and peace in Myanmar must be returned immediately,” Mr. Widodo said. “The interests of the people of Myanmar must always be the priority.”

The messages conveyed to the top General was unusually blunt and could be seen as a breach of the conservative 10-nation bloc’s bedrock principle forbidding member states from interfering in each other’s domestic affairs. But Malaysian premier Muhyiddin Yassin said that policy should not lead to inaction if a domestic situation “jeopardizes the peace, security, and stability of ASEAN and the region” and there is international clamor for resolute action.

“There is a tremendous expectation on the part of the international community on how ASEAN is addressing the Myanmar issue. The pressure is increasing,” Mr. Muhyiddin said.

Access to Myanmar

Mr. Muhyiddin said that the current ASEAN Chairman, Brunei Prime Minister Hassanal Bolkiah, and the regional bloc’s Secretary General, should be allowed access to Myanmar to meet contending parties, encourage dialogue and come up with “an honest and unbiased observation.”

Daily shootings by police and soldiers since the February 1 coup have killed more than 700 mostly peaceful protesters and bystanders, according to several independent tallies.

It was not immediately clear if and how Gen. Min Aung Hlaing responded to the blunt messages.

It was the first time he travelled out of Myanmar since the coup, which was followed by the arrests of Aung San Suu Kyi and many other political leaders.

ASEAN’s diversity, including the divergent ties of many of its members to either China or the U.S., along with a bedrock policy of non-interference in each other’s domestic affairs and deciding by consensus, has hobbled the bloc’s ability to rapidly deal with crises.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi expressed hopes on the eve of the summit that “we can reach an agreement on the next steps that can help the people of Myanmar get out of this delicate situation.”

Following the coup, ASEAN, through its current chair Brunei, issued a statement that did not explicitly condemn the power grab but urged “the pursuance of dialogue, reconciliation and the return to normalcy in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar.” Amid Western pressure, however, the regional group has struggled to take a more forceful position on issues but has kept to its non-confrontational approach.

Critics have said ASEAN’s decision to meet him was unacceptable and amounted to legitimising the overthrow and the deadly crackdown that followed.

Amnesty International urged Indonesia and other ASEAN states to investigate Min Aung Hlaing over “credible allegations of responsibility for crimes against humanity in Myanmar.”

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Printable version | Jun 19, 2021 12:56:28 AM |

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