April 24 was confirmed as the date of the long-promised emergency meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on the crisis in Myanmar. The news was broken on Thursday by World PBS Thailand, which noted that leaders from all 10 ASEAN countries, including Myanmar’s coup leader, Senior Lieutenant General Min Aung Hlaing, are expected to attend the small summit in Jakarta.
Plans for an ASEAN special meeting have been in place for several weeks, led by Indonesia and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, whose diplomatic spur has been supported by Malaysia, Brunei and Singapore. Government of Malaysia and Brunei announced that a meeting has been scheduled on 5 April, after the meeting between Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei, currently holds the Southeast Asia’s rotating presidency.
In a statement, the two leaders affirmed that “ASEAN is still more interested in seeing Myanmar resolve the crisis and regain stability”. The statement also expressed common concern for the deteriorating situation in the country, at the same time “calling on all parties to refrain from inciting further violence and all parties to immediately exercise restraint and maximum flexibility ”.
According to the Thailand PBS World report, there was some delay in setting the date and location of the meeting. The Myanmar government initially insisted that the summit should be held in Brunei but eventually agreed to go to Jakarta, which was preferred by most of the other member countries as the venue.
The meeting came at a pivotal moment. According to the Association for Supporting Political Prisoners, at least 726 people has been killed since the military took power on February 1, and widespread protests and work stoppages have stalled the economy and much of the civilian government.
Meanwhile, several thousand people were arrested for participating in the anti-coup movement. Yesterday alone, about three dozen people, including a famous protest leader, celebrities, activists and ordinary citizens, has been arrested of military governments in four states and regions, according to The Irrawaddy.
The increasingly brutal and violent repression of the anti-coup protest movement has created an internationally condemned chorus, which has increased pressure to force ASEAN to play a leading role in resolving the dispute. crisis.
Yesterday, Reuters reported that the European Union has reported agree to impose sanctions about 10 other individuals involved in the coup and subsequent crackdowns, as well as two large military-run corporations – Myanmar Economic Holdings Limited (MEHL) and Myanmar Economic Corporation – were hit by the UK and United States aimed.
Meanwhile, South Korean steel producer POSCO today announced that it has severed its business relationship with MEHL, becoming the latest foreign company to review its presence in Myanmar amid post-coup violence.
For many outside observers and some within ASEAN, the coup in Myanmar exposed the bloc’s shortcomings, threatening to claim a prized “central role” in the region’s diplomacy. . (Interested readers will be advised to follow The Diplomat’s Upcoming webinars on this topic on April 20.) Indeed, ASEAN’s holding of a meeting is a tacit acknowledgment of this fact, at least among some member states.
Even so, the expectations for the outcome of the special meeting should be reduced. This is partly due to the limitations of ASEAN’s current structure and operating principles, which resolve consensus above all. Such a consensus is likely to be a challenge in Myanmar’s case, as some ASEAN member states still insist on seeing the crisis as their own “internal affair”. When ASEAN Foreign Ministers met by video link to discuss the coup in early March, the joint statement was faint, does not mention Myanmar until eighth out of ten points contained in the statement.
Another thing to consider is the sheer incurability of the conflict in Myanmar, which creates an entrenched opportunity against a proven resilience opposition movement that includes a portion. great Myanmar society. ASEAN’s most important advantage is its ability to bring both sides to the negotiating table – but if neither side is interested in negotiating, nine other Southeast Asian nations can. Indeed, it is likely that many protesters will see ASEAN’s readiness to sit down with Min Aung Hlaing as a sign that they see the government as the legitimate government of the country and oppose any path forward. treat it that way.
The situation is complicated within Myanmar and increasing external pressure on the Southeast Asian bloc to do something about it, thus ensuring that ASEAN will be forced to take a favorable path at upcoming summit. Bilahari Kausikan, former permanent secretary of Singapore’s Foreign Ministry, “Whatever they say or do, they must be strong enough to maintain ASEAN’s credibility as an effective alibi to prevent early action.” wrote earlier this month“But it’s not too tough to alienate the Tatmadaw and show that ASEAN can play a substantial role in the future.”