Restoring order: On ASEAN and Myanmar  

ASEAN did well to call out the Myanmar junta’s repression of dissidents 

September 08, 2023 12:10 am | Updated 02:50 pm IST

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has finally shown the courage to call out the junta in Myanmar for the ongoing violence and its failure in implementing the Five-Point Consensus that was reached between the two sides, aimed at addressing the post-coup crisis in the country. Myanmar has seen a security and economic decline ever since the military ousted the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021. Under the ASEAN plan, reached in April 2021, the junta had promised to stop the violence and start inclusive political dialogue, but has continued violating the consensus. ASEAN kept pushing the generals, but stopped short of antagonising them. However, the latest statement from ASEAN, issued after its annual summit in Jakarta, suggests a hardening of its stand. It has “strongly condemned” the continued acts of violence, and directly urged the “armed forces in particular and all related parties concerned... to ... stop targeted attacks on civilians”. The grouping has also decided to deny Myanmar the bloc’s chairmanship, which it was to assume in 2026. The Philippines will now take over, as the chairmanship goes in alphabetical order, and Myanmar will have a long wait ahead.

The military, unlike earlier when it saw opposition from democratic forces, is now facing enhanced pressure following the civil war. The political opposition has formed a National Unity Government (NUG) with a military wing that has joined hands with some ethnic separatist groups, thus posing a challenge to the junta. The military is still in control of most of the population centres, but at a huge cost. A recent report by United Nations investigators has said that the military regime has been committing war crimes, that include mass executions and sexual violence. More than two years of conflict have left about 18 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, and displaced two million. The military has also killed thousands in indiscriminate attacks on rebels and civilians. But despite this disproportionate use of violence, the regime has been unable to stifle dissent. In August, the military drew condemnation from the UN Security Council over “unrelenting violence”. Now, with the ASEAN move, it is evident that the regime stands isolated, while the domestic situation remains untenable. It is not clear whether a tough stance by ASEAN will have any immediate meaningful impact on the regime’s behaviour. But the bloc, which has leverage over the country, should continue to push the generals to end the violence and start talks. The only solution to the multiple crises Myanmar is facing is the restoration of a legitimate, responsible and responsive regime.

Top News Today

Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.