Southeast Asian leaders grapple with violence in Myanmar – The Diplomat

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Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders on Friday struggled to reach a consensus on how to pressure Myanmar to honor a peace plan amid violence in the member-state spiraling out of control since the military seized power in 2021 .

The group has banned leaders of Myanmar, also known as Burma, from attending its high-level events, such as the ongoing Phnom Penh summit, to pressure them to uphold ASEAN’s five-point consensus plan for peace with little so far Effect.

Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, whose country will take over the rotating ASEAN presidency after Cambodia, told reporters on the sidelines of the summit that he had proposed extending the ban on Myanmar political officials to other events beyond the summit and foreign ministers’ meeting – something urgent from human rights groups.

“Indonesia is deeply disappointed that the situation in Myanmar is deteriorating,” he said. “We must not allow the situation in Myanmar to define ASEAN.”

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The ASEAN plan calls for an immediate cessation of violence, dialogue between all parties, mediation by an ASEAN special envoy, delivery of humanitarian assistance and a visit by the special envoy to Myanmar to meet all sides.

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The Myanmar government initially approved the plan, but made little effort to implement it. Under the current ban on political representation, Myanmar was allowed but refused to send non-political representatives to high-level events.

Talks between the other ASEAN members – Cambodia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Brunei – on how to pressure Myanmar to comply with the five-point plan have been ongoing since mid 2017 in Phnom Penh. Week.

According to a diplomat with access to the discussions, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the behind-closed-doors meetings, Singapore and Malaysia, and at times Brunei, have backed Indonesia’s calls for increased measures against Myanmar.

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The group has decided not to exclude Myanmar from ASEAN – at least for now. Thailand, backed by Cambodia and Laos, has opposed the Indonesian proposal, arguing that extending the ban would amount to a de facto suspension, the diplomat said.

The situation was an overarching issue for ASEAN, and Jokowi stressed the importance of reaching an agreement. “The situation in Myanmar must not hold ASEAN hostage,” he said.

At the official opening ceremony on Friday, Cambodia’s prime minister cautioned his Southeast Asian leaders against complacency, saying there is still work to be done although economies are gradually recovering as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.

Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that the region is “now at its most uncertain juncture” as it aims to promote “peace, security and sustainable growth”. Although he spoke generally of “strategic challenges we all face,” he did not go into specifics in his opening statement.

“We are now enjoying the fruits of our efforts and moving towards sustainable growth,” he said. “We should always be vigilant as the current socio-economic situation in ASEAN and around the world remains fragile and divided.”

He said the summit’s theme, “Facing Challenges Together,” should be considered “timely.” “There is a saying that disasters and crises can bring out the best in people,” said Hun Sen. “In this context, I believe that all of us who gather here today share a sense of urgency to work together.”

Jim Gomez contributed to this story from Manila, Philippines.