ASEAN discussions: Ministers struggle to find Myanmar crisis resolution, Thailand charts own course

Photo courtesy of Achmad Ibrahim/ AP Newsroom

In the pursuit of calming the chaos ensuing in Myanmar, yesterday foreign ministers of the ASEAN nations carried on their discussions. These continued ASEAN discussions follow the conclusion of the bloc’s ministerial summit held previously.

Myanmar has been subjected to detrimental turbulence since the military coup took control of the government that was previously led by Aung San Suu Kyi, in February 2021. The coup has been met with violent resistance, which has been brutally suppressed by the military.

Indonesia assumed the chair of ASEAN and, during the two-day diplomatic talks which concluded on Wednesday, pressed for a political resolution to the existing crisis. However, the unified peace efforts within the 10-member regional group seem to be making no substantial headway, even after more than two years since the coup. The military junta, in stark defiance, continues to disregard international condemnation and does not facilitate any form of engagement with its critics.

Whilst the ASEAN discussions were ongoing, by yesterday, the ministers were unable to favour an agreed joint statement addressing the issue. A Southeast Asian diplomat, wishing to remain unnamed, revealed that a collective text was underway and was expected to be finalised later in the day. Although remaining silent about the reason for the belated document, the diplomat mentioned that the ASEAN group was still figuring out the specifics to be included in the section on Myanmar on Tuesday, reported Bangkok Post.

Thailand has seemingly initiated a divergent course to the joint ASEAN efforts, engaging in direct communications with the Myanmar military and other parties involved in the conflict. The junta’s foreign minister was hosted by Bangkok last month for notorious “informal conversations” which led to further division within the ASEAN group.

Additionally, on Wednesday, during the second day of the ASEAN meeting, Thailand’s Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai declared that he had met with the detained Suu Kyi last week, who was previously sentenced to 33 years imprisonment by a court under the junta. This ASEAN discussion took place on Sunday in Myanmar’s capital Nay Pyi Taw, where Suu Kyi reportedly appeared to be in a healthy condition, promoting further dialogue.

Indonesia iterated that any other efforts aimed towards a resolution should back the existing ASEAN five-point peace plan. This plan seeks to cease the ongoing violence and facilitate renewed discussions. Jakarta’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi stated that Indonesia has kept up with its unobtrusive diplomacy with all parties involved in the disagreement. The unnamed diplomat expressed ASEAN’s support of Thailand’s initiative, given it reinforces the chair’s role in achieving a resolution.

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Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

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