ASEAN at a crossroad as violence escalates in Myanmar
Southeast Asian nations are at a “crossroad”, as escalating violence in junta-controlled Myanmar threatens to overshadow a regional summit, warned Indonesia’s Coordinating Minister for Politics, Legal and Security, Mahfud MD. The two-year-long crisis has left Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) diplomatic attempts to resolve it fruitless. Last month, an air strike on a village reportedly killed around 170 people, sparking global condemnation and intensifying calls for ASEAN to take action.
According to Mahfud, ASEAN is being tested by crisis after crisis, and the failure to address them could risk jeopardising its relevance. Human Rights Watch stated that the recent air strike in the central Sagaing region was a “likely war crime,” urging ASEAN to support stronger measures to cut off the military’s cash flow and press the junta for reform.
Pressure on ASEAN increased when a convoy of vehicles carrying diplomats and officials coordinating ASEAN humanitarian relief in Myanmar was attacked. With foreign ministers and national leaders continuing their efforts to implement a mediation plan agreed upon two years ago, the shooting raises the urgency of Myanmar as a key issue at this summit.
Myanmar remains an ASEAN member but has been barred from top-level summits due to the junta’s failure to implement the peace plan. Despite growing criticism of ASEAN’s inaction, progress is hindered by its charter principles of consensus and non-interference. Other nations, such as China and individual ASEAN member countries, have attempted to resolve the Myanmar crisis. Philippine Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo stressed that the resolution should remain “ASEAN-led”.
Analysts suggest that whilst there may be increased pressure for a response following these incidents, the likelihood of ASEAN providing anything more than another condemnation statement is low.
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