Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ASEAN urges Myanmar to end violence, seek reconciliation



ASEAN urges Myanmar to end violence, seek reconciliation

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Protesters react, with one letting off a fire extinguisher, as tear gas is fired by police during a demonstration against the military coup in Yangon on Tuesday. STR/AFP

ASEAN urges Myanmar to end violence, seek reconciliation

ASEAN foreign ministers on March 2 urged the Myanmar military to desist from violence and respect the will of the Myanmar people, as the regime continued cracking down on protests against the February 1 coup.

The messages were conveyed during the informal ASEAN foreign ministers meeting March 2, which was attended by Wunna Maung Lwin, the top envoy appointed by Myanmar’s military regime after the coup. The online meeting came two days after security forces killed at least 18 people in the bloodiest crackdown yet on swelling protests nationwide.

Singaporean Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan told the media after the meeting: “ASEAN wants to continue to engage, and to be helpful and to be constructive wherever possible. But ultimately, the solution lies within Myanmar itself.

“The only way you’re going to get a long-term sustainable viable solution is for national reconciliation to occur, and, in particular, we call for the release of President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and the other political detainees.”

Both are currently detained incommunicado pending court trials.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called the crisis in Myanmar “tragic” but remained hopeful that wisdom would prevail.

He told the BBC in an interview: “I think sense can still eventually prevail. It may take quite a long time, but it can happen.”

He added that using lethal force against unarmed demonstrators was not acceptable. “If [the Myanmar population] decide that the government is not on their side, I think the government has a very big problem,” Lee said.

Dr Balakrishnan stressed that Singapore has not recognised the regime as Myanmar’s government, but recognises that the country’s Constitution provides for a special role for the military. This includes reserving a quarter of all seats in Parliament and control of key ministries.

ASEAN, which operates by consensus, has shied away from condemning the coup in its member state Myanmar, unlike the US and other Western countries.

This, and the recent shuttle diplomacy of Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi, has kept the door open to talks with the junta.

Analysts point out that the 10-nation bloc cannot afford to sit back because Myanmar’s political crisis threatens the bloc’s partnerships with larger powers that have taken strong positions against the coup.

Reflecting this nuanced position, Dr Balakrishnan called the meeting “an opportunity for nine of us to listen to the representative of the military authorities from Myanmar”, instead of a meeting between 10 foreign ministers.

Retno said ASEAN is ready to facilitate dialogue when required. But “ASEAN’s hopes and well-meaning intentions to help will not materialise if Myanmar does not open its doors to ASEAN”, she said.

The Tatmadaw (as the military is called) – which ruled the country for some five decades before 2011 – alleges that the November 8 election that gave Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party its second sweeping victory is fraudulent. It promises to hold another poll after the one-year state of emergency.

Since seizing power on February 1, commander-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing has tried to stamp the junta’s authority, only to meet with fierce protests that the authorities have cracked down on.

Dr Balakrishan said: “It is not yet too late. They are at the abyss of violence, which will be of terrible consequences for Myanmar and indeed for our region.

“It is not yet too late, and hence the plea for them to desist from this violent repression of the popular unrest that has resulted from the coup.”

THE STRAITS TIMES (SINGAPORE)/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

MOST VIEWED

  • WHO: Covid in Cambodia goes into new phase

    The World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia said that Cambodia has reached a new phase of the pandemic with “decreasing case numbers, high vaccination coverage and a more transmissible circulating variant threatening a hidden surge”. In a press release on September 6, the WHO said that

  • 'Pursue your goals, reach out to me': Young diplomat tapped as envoy to South Korea

    Chring Botum Rangsay was a secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation before being designated as the new Cambodian ambassador to South Korea. According to her official CV published on the foreign ministry’s website, she started her first government

  • International air visitor arrivals dip 93%

    The number of foreign tourists entering Cambodia through the Kingdom’s three international airports witnessed a sharp 92.5 per cent year-on-year decline in the first seven months of this year, according to the Ministry of Tourism. The airports handled 51,729 international tourists in the January-July period versus

  • School reopening ‘offers model for other sectors’

    World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Cambodia Li Ailan said school reopening process should be used as a role model for reopening other sectors currently mothballed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Li strongly supports the government’s decision to reopen schools, saying it is a decision

  • Covid jab drive for 6-11 age group to begin Sept 17

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has permitted Covid-19 vaccinations for over 1.8 million children aged 6-11 across the country from September 17 in order for them to return to school after a long hiatus. Hun Sen also hinted that vaccinations for the 3-6 age group will follow in

  • Is Cambodia’s microfinance sector running its course?

    Economic growth and the strength of the banking system might have prompted a slow decline of the microfinance segment that has been raising a population ‘The MFI business model is over,” opined David Van, a Cambodian investment expert, recently. He felt that in a couple