ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus: A Solution to Crisis in Myanmar?

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM May 4 2021

By Kazi Asszad Hossan

It is a glimmer of hope amidst an ongoing military crackdown in Myanmar that the member countries of ASEAN have been convened in Jakarta to discuss the potential of a resolution of the ongoing crisis in Myanmar. The meeting was conspicuous in its absence of any representative of Myanmar people.

However, it has reached an interim five-point consensus on how to resolve the impasse in Myanmar. This article assesses the efficacy of the consensus in ameliorating the ever-deteriorating situation in Myanmar. The Myanmar junta spearheaded by General Min Aung Hlaingis nearing its 3-month hold of power amidst continuing backlash from citizens and civil societies alike. Using the irregularities and widespread voting fraud of November election as a pretext to usurp the power, the Myanmar junta has taken over the country, which is reminiscent of the country’s protracted military rule. 

The junta has squelched all of the opposition in its bid to prolong the power hold.The junta has indiscriminately detained the protesters.The number of detainees climbed to 3,389.Security Forces have fired live ammunition to quell the uprising, killing more than 740 people in brutal crackdowns, according to local monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.Besides, the junta has also halted communications across the country by imposing a nightly Internet shutdown for 70 consecutive days. 

Amidst this backdrop, the regional organisation of SouthEast Asia, ASEAN has convened a meeting to resolve the situation in Myanmar.This is the first in-person meeting since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and this is also the first foreign visit of junta Chief General Min Aung Hlaing.The ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting was convened at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta, and was chaired by the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah.

 In a statement announced by ASEAN’s Chair, the Sultan of Brunei, the leaders in their fivepoint 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 SecretaryGeneral; 4) Humanitarian assistance provided by ASEAN’s AHA Centre and 5) A visit by the special envoy and delegation to Myanmar to meet all parties concerned 

Much to be desired 

Although the statement by the ASEAN and its five-point consensus is encouraging amidst such inflammatory situation in Myanmar, it leaves much to be desired.There are many blatant shortcomings of the meeting and the subsequent statement it put forth.Firstly, there was no mention of the prisoners both political and civilian which have been detained by the junta since February. While they had mentioned that the association has “heard the calls,”it is at best a quite ambiguous selection of words in an attempt to evade the issue of political prisoners. Secondly, the meeting wasn’t representative enough. 

While the Myanmar Military Chief attended the meeting, there was no representative of Myanmar civilian of newly fashioned parallel government, namely National Unity Government (NUG).Therefore, the decision that ASEAN reached runs the risk of not reflecting the ground realities of Myanmar.Besides, some doubts are being raised given ASEAN’s abysmal record of implementing such lofty goals.History abounds with numerous precedents where ASEAN purported to take firm actions, but was futile due to its unique organisational structure and lack of goodwill.It remains to be seen whether ASEAN can bring about any decisive solution to the Myanmar impasse. Although an epitome of regionalism as evidenced by deepening economic cooperation between the countries, ASEAN’s success in political stability is rather limited.Part of the reasons for lack of political involvement can be attributed to its cornerstone principle of non-interference, which forbids any Nation from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries. 

However, in a world marked by globalisation, where national, regional, and global has been blurred,incidents in one Nation can have a spillover effect in other countries of the region.The potentiality of an essentially national incident to disrupt the stability of the region is well documented. Particularly, it requires no special mention that given the geopolitical importance of Myanmar, stability in the Southeast Asian region hinges on the stability and good governance in Myanmar. 

Besides, economic cooperation presupposes a semblance of stability which is hindered if good governance can’t be assured. Therefore, ASEAN shouldn’t remain aloof from its geopolitical calling, since the situation in Myanmar isn’t an internal affair anymore and has transcended Myanmar.The Rohingya refugee crisis, which is a manifestation of the Myanmar Military’s hawkish posture,serves as a shuddering reminder to world community. The inability to forestall any crisis can have devastating consequences for the whole region and can disrupt the security in the region. 

If ASEAN’s firm action can’t be ensured, the present imbroglio can ensue more such refugee crises, given the assortment of ethnic communities that reside in Myanmar and their apparent hostility and protracted conflict with the junta.Therefore, ASEAN can’t trade the security and stability of broader region under the pretext of its provincial non-interference norm.

A bold and effective action by ASEAN is the crying need of the time, rather than lukewarm condemnations which doesn’t serve much purpose.Moreover, ASEAN should come out of its record of advancing platitudes and nostrums in response to pressing political issues and rather should take decisive action to solve the quagmire in Myanmar. (www.moderndiplomacy.eu)

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM May 4 2021

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