Asean speaks out on coup
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has reached another important milestone after the bloc's leaders reached a consensus on Saturday to end the crisis and violence in Myanmar.
Nevertheless, Asean leaders did not show their full bravery to act against the military crackdown in Myanmar in which more than 700 civilians were killed.
It would be premature to conclude that Asean's plainly spoken stance will bear fruit. Asean leaders met Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing in Jakarta on Saturday and reached a five-point consensus on how to tackle the political crisis the country is facing.
In a statement announced by Asean's chair, the Sultan of Brunei, the leaders in their five-point consensus called for 1) the immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar; 2) constructive dialogue among all parties concerned to seek a peaceful solution in the interests of the people; 3) mediation to be facilitated by an envoy of Asean's chair, with the assistance of the secretary-general; 4) humanitarian assistance provided by Asean's Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) and 5) a visit by the special envoy and delegation to Myanmar to meet all parties concerned.
This is quite a strong statement, especially considering Asean's cardinal principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of member states.
However, it seems the leaders are trying to be even-handed as their calling for "the immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar" where "all parties shall exercise utmost restraint" refers to violence on both sides, including the protests.
Nevertheless, considering Asean's long-time tradition of non-interference, its stance is a step forward, even if it did not go as far as condemning the Myanmar junta for the mass killings which have taken place under its watch: more than 700 dead since the coup began.
Myanmar's parallel National Unity Government (NUG) said it welcomed "encouraging" news of a consensus among Asean leaders in dealing with the crisis in the country.
The NUG "looked forward to firm action by Asean to follow up on its decisions and to restore our democracy and freedom for our people," Dr Sasa, spokesman and minister of international cooperation of the shadow government, said.
Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing reportedly agreed to the consensus. "He said he heard us, he would take the points which he considered helpful, he was not opposed to Asean playing a constructive role, or an Asean delegation visit, or humanitarian assistance. He said they would move forward and engage with Asean in a constructive way," Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said, according to a local media report.
However, it remains in doubt if Asean will be able to effectively put its consensus into practice. On Saturday, while Gen Min Aung Hlaing sat down with heads of state at the summit, Myanmar's military was still cracking down on anti-coup protesters, killing at least one. This shows how little Myanmar's military rulers care about Asean and the international community.
Myanmar junta leaders have seldom offered any face-saving concessions to Asean envoys. Former Malaysian foreign minister Syed Hamid Albar once visited Myanmar but came home from his truncated trip empty-handed after he was unable to meet the detained opposition leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.
How Asean will proceed with its "encouraging" consensus to firm action is what the world community looks forward to seeing.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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