‘Deeply disappointed by limited progress’ . . .
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) concluded its Foreign Ministers meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, last week with a strong rebuke of one of its own: Myanmar's military regime. The 10-member regional association has barred Myanmar's ruling generals from attending ASEAN meetings until the junta demonstrates progress on ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus (5PC), the 15-month-old plan to restore peace and stability to the country after the February 2021 military coup. ASEAN foreign ministers also issued a communique expressing their deep disappointment with the lack of action by Myanmar's State Administration Council (SAC) to implement the 5PC. The statement hinted at further action in response to Naypyidaw’s continued non-compliance at the upcoming ASEAN leader’s summit in November.
Junta doubles down on repression . . .
Myanmar was quick to reject ASEAN's communique, saying it would follow its own five-point plan based on the founding principles of the ASEAN Charter, namely, the respect for state sovereignty and non-interference. The Tatmadaw – Myanmar's military – has waged a bloody crackdown on the widespread civil disobedience that has engulfed the country since the coup. ASEAN's decision to exclude Myanmar's generals from the regional forum comes shortly after the regime executed four prominent democracy activists. Despite signs that the SAC is losing ground in its battle against domestic resistance, it continues to violently suppress protests, even as Monday marked the 34th anniversary of Myanmar's 1988 pro-democracy movement, which opened the way for the country's first short-lived democratic period.
Harsher language an uncharacteristic change . . .
A tense geopolitical environment overshadowed the foreign ministers' meeting, especially amidst the visit by U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan and Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Nevertheless, international representatives attending the meeting as ASEAN dialogue partners highlighted their desire to support ASEAN’s efforts to improve the situation in Myanmar, including Japan’s foreign minister, who pledged Tokyo’s assistance. Meanwhile, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, this year’s ASEAN Chair, has been criticized for his insistence on negotiating with Myanmar's military junta, despite the worsening violence and calls from Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei to take a harder line against Naypyidaw. However, the recent executions of democracy activists and ASEAN's image as a "toothless tiger” appear to have changed Hun Sen's tone, resulting in a somewhat firmer stance toward the junta.
- Al Jazeera: Myanmar generals banned from ASEAN until peace plan progress
- The Diplomat: ASEAN (minus Myanmar) gets its act together
- The Irrawaddy: ASEAN condemns lack of Myanmar peace progress