Myanmar crisis tests ASEAN


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In the aftermath of the February 1 coup in Myanmar, the response of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which includes the country, is under the microscope. All sorts of diatribes were directed against the block, which comprises a mix of regime types. Political analysts and political analysts have criticized the time-proven practices of non-military organizations of non-interference and non-use of force and peaceful means to end conflicts. They often underestimate the time-consuming decision-making process.

It took ASEAN six months to gather itself in the wake of the devastating coup Results From all dimensions, with more than 1,000 dead, 5,900 arrested, and the collapse of the country’s economic, social and public health systems. Now, the COVID-19 pandemic has become one of the biggest threats to Myanmar, with medical experts Warning That without any rapid and sustained help, half of the population of 54 million could be infected.

Earlier this month, ASEAN leaders chose Brunei’s second foreign minister and current ASEAN chairman Eriwan Bahin Yusuf as their special envoy after weeks of negotiations. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi had been insisting on her candidate, former Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda. Thailand favored the former Deputy Foreign Minister and former ambassador to Myanmar, Virasakdi Votrakul. Other ASEAN members also put forward their candidates for consideration.

What complicated the selection of the Special Envoy was whether the approval of the new military regime in Myanmar should be considered. The choice of Wirajuda or Virasakdi will have far-reaching implications for future action plans to end the violence in Myanmar. At the very least, the cooperation of the military regime is indispensable because it currently controls access to the country. Brunei, as the current president of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, faced a dilemma in making the decision due to the lack of consensus. For three months, Eriwan as ASEAN president consulted extensively with his ASEAN colleagues on the best candidate selection. All the while, the Myanmar Military Council The virtue of working with Virasakdi. This further hardened the position of Jakarta, which viewed this choice as a measure of the harsh military regime, which continues to hunt down opposition groups and protesters.

On August 4, the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, chose his second foreign minister as envoy, ending the feud within ASEAN. The military regime in Myanmar also accepted this choice after some ASEAN members confirmed the pressure By threatening not to recognize Myanmar’s participation in the annual conference. The Special Envoy is now working on action plans with timetables for implementation as stipulated in Five-point consensus It was agreed upon by ASEAN leaders on April 24 in Jakarta.

Eriwan will select a team of advisors that includes senior diplomats from across ASEAN. Wirajuda and Virasakdi will be in the group, which will also include a senior diplomat from Cambodia, who will take over the presidency of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2022. Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan warned That given the complexity of the situation and the conflicting parties, a realistic timetable was needed for the envoy to do his job. The military system has Pledge To hold a general election within two years.

At this juncture, the most pressing issue for the envoy and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations is how to mobilize regional and international efforts to help Myanmar deal with the COVID-19 infection rate. Currently, only a small amount of assistance has been provided to the people of Myanmar by neighboring countries such as Thailand, China and India. But there is an urgent need for a comprehensive and coordinated plan under the tutelage of ASEAN and the Humanitarian Disaster Management Unit known as the ASEAN Center (ASEAN Humanitarian Coordination Center on Disaster Management). The bloc could draw on its experience with Cyclone Nargis in 2008 when the international community was quickly mobilized to form a tripartite body – ASEAN, Myanmar and international organizations – to provide humanitarian aid to the affected areas.

The ASEAN Secretariat is also planning to hold an international donors’ conference for Myanmar. At the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations earlier this month, Thailand, which shares a 2,401-kilometer border with Myanmar, proposed this initiative to raise funds for a sustainable humanitarian mission for the people of Myanmar. The date and location have not yet been decided. The ASEAN Special Envoy and his team are also planning to visit Myanmar soon to assess the current situation on the ground.

ariwan clearer It must have unimpeded access to all stakeholders including ousted leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and Australian economist Sean Tornell – all of whom are imprisoned by the junta – as well as to all regions of the country. Over the past six months, ASEAN has been urge The military regime should release all political and foreign prisoners, although this demand was not reflected in the consensus of the five points. This endeavor was led notably by Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Despite growing criticism from outside about ASEAN’s handling of the Myanmar crisis, there is still support from the bloc’s dialogue partners (Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea, the United States, and As of earlier this month in the UK), which supported the centrality of ASEAN in the international response to the crisis. At the annual meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers in July, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken also spoke a favour ASEAN’s five-point consensus as an important step forward, but urged the group to speed up its efforts.

So far, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and the European Union have imposed specific sanctions targeting senior officials and companies associated with the Tatmadaw, as the Myanmar military is called. It remains unclear whether Myanmar’s credentials will be held by the ousted National League for Democracy government in Suu Kyi or the interim government headed by Prime Minister Senior General Aung Hlaing at the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York later next month.

Eriwan is expected to visit Naypyidaw soon to meet with junta leaders and other stakeholders to prepare action plans on key issues. These issues include humanitarian assistance, particularly in the fight against COVID-19, as well as for the displaced within Myanmar and those along the Thai-Myanmar border fleeing the violence. From now on, the importance and centrality of the Association would be tested on the basis of the performance of its Envoy. The lack of progress over the past six months has already tarnished the bloc’s reputation and raised concerns about its ability to tackle this quagmire. ASEAN needs to speed up its decision-making process and become more assertive to succeed in Myanmar and meet the broad expectations of the international community.


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