Myanmar summit Saturday tests ASEAN’s effectiveness

PHOTO: All eyes are on the ASEAN summit on Myanmar Saturday.

Leaders from the 10 countries of ASEAN will meet Saturday at a summit to discuss the crisis in Myanmar in what many see as a credibility test for the organisation. As the military junta in Myanmar have ramped up violence and lethal force against pro-democracy protestors, the country is descending into what the UN high commissioner for human rights referred to as a Syrian-style civil war.

With at least 739 fatalities at the hand of the Burmese military security forces since their coup on February 1, a UN envoy estimated about 250,000 people are displaced in the country.

The world is watching now, with heavy stress on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to deliver some solutions or at least progress on the Burmese quagmire. Expectations are high with pressure on this summit to prove that ASEAN is a stable and credible diplomatic organisation, capable of resolving conflict in Southeast Asia and affecting change. ASEAN usually maintains a laissez-faire stance on their member countries’ internal conflicts and controversies, but this crisis may spurn the organisation to action.

Countries around the world have condemned Myanmar’s military coup and called for action and sanctions. The US Treasury department just declared pearl and timber exports will be sanctioned, stating that these natural resources are state-owned and helping fund the Burmese military.

Some have pushed for Myanmar to be removed from ASEAN altogether. Activists and human rights organisations have demanded leaders of the military junta be barred from participating in Saturday’s summit in Jakarta. But Min Aung Hlaing, the military chief who led the coup, say he will travel to Jakarta this weekend to attend the summit of ASEAN, his first international trip since helming the military junta. The UN’s special envoy to Myanmar will also travel from Bangkok to participate in the summit.

Whether or not the Burmese military chief will end up actually going to the meeting, or will instead appear virtually online, is still hotly debated.

The ASEAN meeting will have 2 noticeable absences so far (perhaps 3). The Burmese shadow government made up of the original democratically elected government and its appointees had petitioned for representation at this ASEAN summit, a request that so far has not been accepted. And Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha has also decided to skip the summit, stirring some controversy by sending his veteran Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai as a stand-in. Some see this as a shirking of international responsibility as the coup and crisis in neighbouring Myanmar may stir the international public’s memory of Thailand’s recent coup and military leadership, as well as create the perception of being aligned with Burmese coup quasi-supporters China and Russia.

A Thai Foreign Ministry spokesman asserted that PM Prayut’s ASEAN summit absence is not political, but rather a necessity as Covid-19 has been rampaging throughout Thailand and the current third wave outbreaks require his immediate attention.

PM Prayut did speak with Indonesian president Joko Widodo this morning about the upcoming meeting. He conceded that the Burmese crisis threatens stability in Southeast Asia and is a challenge for peace amongst ASEAN countries.

SOURE: Macau Business

World News

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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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