Myanmar warns ASEAN that pressure would be counterproductive

Military-ruled Myanmar says it will not ‘be bound’ by outcome of meetings by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Close up of several men in camouflage gear holding up rifles with attached bayonets.
Myanmar military personnel participate in a parade on Armed Forces Day in the capital Naypyitaw, Myanmar, in March 2021 [File: Reuters]

Myanmar’s military government has warned that any pressure from its Southeast Asian neighbours to put a time frame on a peace plan would create “negative implications”.

The military government made the statement in response to a meeting earlier on Thursday by foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which had discussed ways of easing the intensifying conflict in the country.

Late on Thursday, Myanmar’s military-appointed foreign ministry released a statement blaming armed resistance movements for the violence and saying pressure to set a time frame for peace would create more negative implications than positive ones.

The ministry also said that Myanmar would “not be bound by the outcomes of the meeting” because it was held by nine ASEAN countries without the attendance of a representative from Myanmar, which completes the bloc’s 10-nation membership.

Myanmar has been rocked by the savagery of the conflict in recent weeks, which included parcel bombs being sent to Myanmar’s largest prison and government air raids in northern Kachin State on Sunday, which reports say killed an estimated 80 people including many civilians.

No Myanmar representatives were present at the special meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers as the country’s rulers have been barred from high-level meetings of the bloc since last year’s military coup that deposed the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Thousands have been arrested and killed in violence since the coup and tens of thousands have fled the country.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said that ASEAN ministers expressed their concern and disappointment, and in some cases frustration, with the lack of significant progress in the implementation of a peace plan for Myanmar.

“Instead of progressing, the situation was even said to be deteriorating and worsening,” she said.

“The acts of violence once again must stop immediately,” Marsudi said. “Without a cessation of violence, there will be no conducive conditions for the resolution of this political crisis.”

‘More determined’

The foreign ministers acknowledged at the meeting that their efforts to bring peace to Myanmar had failed, but they reiterated their determination to end violence in the country.

“The meeting agreed that ASEAN should not be discouraged, but even more determined to help Myanmar to bring about a peaceful solution the soonest possible,” Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, who chaired the meeting, said in a statement.

ASEAN has tried to play a peace-making role by steering a “five-point consensus” plan the group reached last year as a path to securing peace.

The five-point plan called for the immediate cessation of violence, a dialogue among concerned parties, mediation by an ASEAN special envoy, provision of humanitarian aid and a visit to Myanmar by the special envoy to meet all concerned parties.

Myanmar’s government initially agreed but has made little effort to implement the plan, aside from seeking humanitarian aid and allowing ASEAN’s envoy, Cambodia’s Prak Sokhonn, to visit. But the generals refused to allow him to meet with Suu Kyi, who is arrested and being tried on a variety of charges critics say are contrived to sideline her from politics.

Thursday’s meeting comes ahead of ASEAN’s annual summit on November 11-13, where a top focus of the leaders will be the Myanmar crisis, which has threatened the group’s unity.

ASEAN members traditionally avoid criticising each other and the violence unleashed by Myanmar’s military is widely seen as exposing the group’s powerlessness in dealing with a geopolitical and humanitarian emergency that could affect all of them.

At the United Nations in New York on Wednesday, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said that a coalition of countries at the UN needed to join forces and target Myanmar’s military with sanctions and an arms embargo.

Proposing an international diplomatic effort similar to what has emerged in support of Ukraine in its fight against Russia, Andrews said “the world is failing the people of Myanmar”.

“There is a leadership vacuum, here in the UN and the international community,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies