ASEAN leaders speak about Saturday’s Myanmar summit

PHOTO: Many leaders spoke after the ASEAN summit on Myanmar.

In Jakarta on Saturday, leaders of the ASEAN countries met to convince Burmese junta leader Min Aung Hlaing to work with them towards progress. Full cover from The Thaiger of what was discussed at the meeting can be found here. During and after the meetings, nation leaders and representatives voiced their concerns and goals regarding the crisis in Myanmar.

Tim Newton’s video assessment of what would happen at the meeting HERE.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo was vocal in his calls for the creation of an ASEAN delegation to travel to Myanmar and assess the situation. He stressed that it was imperative for this special envoy to interact with all parties involved in the Burmese crisis, and not just the military.

Malaysian PM Muhyiddin Yassin, in step with other ASEAN leaders, issued a statement strongly calling for a stop to violence against civilians, and for the release of political detainees.

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“The deplorable situation in Myanmar must stop immediately. Malaysia believes the killings and violence must end. All parties must urgently restraint from any provocations and actions that will perpetuate violence and unrest.”

Singapore PM Lee Hsien Loong believes that achieving peace in Myanmar is an uphill battle but remains hopeful.

“I’m sure that in implementing this, there’s a long way forward because there’s one thing to say you’ll cease violence and release political prisoners; it’s another thing to get it done. And to have an inclusive discussion in order to reach a political resolution is even harder still, but at least there are some steps forward which we can take. But I would say overall it has been a productive meeting, and it has pointed the next steps forward for us. If ASEAN had not met or had not been able to come to a conclusion on the matter, that would have been very bad.”

Singapore has been vocal in its call for the immediate release of political prisoners and an urgent stop to violence, sentiments PM Lee reiterated during the ASEAN leaders meeting. He believes that this is the first step to a resolution that must involve both the military junta and the National League for Democracy, the Burmese party led by Aung Sun Suu Kyi. The military has had an active role in Burmese politics for years, but the NLD has the support of the public needed to bring peace to the troubled country.

The Singaporean PM also expressed hope that Myanmar can return to peaceful government more quickly than the riots in 1989 which took more than 20 years to recover from, but he stressed that while Southeast Asian nations can offer support, the final resolution must be made by the Burmese themselves within the Myanmar border.

“I hope it doesn’t take as long this time, but I think it is going to be a difficult journey for them because a political reconciliation or resolution which is necessary is a very tough one to make. And we wish them well and we will do our part where we can be helpful.”

Philippines Foreign Secretary Teddy Locsin agreed, asserting that Myanmar must find peace on its own before it devolves into civil war.

“This is what Myanmar must avoid: geographical, political, social and national disintegration into warring ethnic parts. Myanmar on its own must find peace again.”

The Secretary attended as Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, similar to Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha, decided against joining the ASEAN summit with other nation leaders, and sent a delegate in his place instead.

The National Unity Government, made up of deposed Myanmar lawmakers, complained of a lop-sided summit that allowed the Burmese military a seat, but no representation for the Burmese people. They issued a strongly-worded statement against their omission from talks.

“Meetings that contribute to a solution to the deepening crisis in Myanmar are welcome. Meetings that exclude the people of Myanmar but include murderer-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing … are unlikely to be helpful.”

Amnesty International released a similarly sharp statement before the meeting calling for a more forceful response to the Burmese military Junta, though the leaders at the ASEAN summit will likely be walking on eggshells to try to create open dialogue channels between Myanmar and other Southeast Asian countries.

“The crisis initiated by a murderous and unrepentant Myanmar military has engulfed the country and will cause severe aftershocks — humanitarian and more — for the entire region. The Indonesian authorities are duty-bound to investigate Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other Myanmar military officials who may join his delegation to Jakarta.”

SOURCE: Reuters, Bangkok Post, and Channel News Asia

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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