Asean nations should tighten screws on Myanmar military
Asean members, collectively or otherwise, should tighten the screws on Myanmar's military by engaging with the National Unity Government (NUG) before geopolitical manoeuvres by superpowers further complicate the crisis, experts said.
The recommendation comes at a time when Myanmar is going facing a crisis since the February 1 coup.
Myanmar has since then seen almost 900 people killed, including 70 children, while 6,200 civilians were detained as political prisoners.
Many fear a civil war brewing as the People's Defense Force, the armed wing of the NUG -- a shadow government -- is gaining strength in Myanmar. The Myanmar junta, meanwhile, is also on the hard line.
The UN General Assembly last Friday adopted a resolution condemning the military coup, calling for preventing the flow of arms into Myanmar and returning democracy in the country.
Of the 156 member states, 119, or 76 per cent, voted in favour of the resolution; 36 abstained and one voted against.
Of the Asean members, six voted in favour, while Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos abstained.
Asean Chair Brunei failed to convince the junta to implement the five-point consensus approved by Asean leaders back in April to end the violence.
"Last Friday was important for many reasons. It made clear who is who," said Laetitia van den Assum, former member of the Kofi Annan Commission on Rakhine, while addressing a webinar titled "Myanmar: Hope fades, fear mounts" organised on Wednesday by the Asia News Network (ANN), an alliance of 23 media houses of Asia.
The webinar was moderated by ANN Executive Editor Pana Janviroj.
Dr Marty Natalegawa, former Indonesian foreign minister, said nothing would make the State Administration Council (SAC), set up by the junta to run Myanmar, "more disturbed and it would serve as a greater wake-up call for the Asean to publicly reach out to the NUG".
He voiced support for the NUG's inclusive approach towards civil societies and ethnic groups, and its ambitious attempt at state and peace building, while being in hiding and on the run.
"It is a good ground for the NUG to build on. The Asean can go about engaging them and hearing their opinions, and helping them make it work."
However, he said a division within Asean is extremely damaging because it raises questions about the whole Asean project and its reliability and commitment. This will only benefit the Tatmadaw, and they should not be allowed to reap the benefit from Asean's inaction.
Marty added that the longer Asean delays, global geopolitical manoeuvring involving the US, Russia, China, France and others would be replicated in the region.
"We will become part and parcel of geopolitics that we can't control."
Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar, former Malaysian foreign and defence minister, said the Asean must force itself to play an effective role as agreed at the leaders' meeting in Jakarta. It must not wait for the approval of the Tatmadaw.
"When I looked at the NUG, I was excited -- more inclusive, more open, more willing to discuss…," he said referring to NUG's announcement of equal rights for all, including the Rohingyas, in the constitution.
Kobsak Chutikul, former Thai ambassador, described the Asean as "fractured and disunited", and said they "would not be able to deliver changes or reverse the situation in Myanmar".
Given the humanitarian urgency, he suggested other channels, including the appointment of a non-Asean national as an envoy to rally other countries to work in an alliance, to put pressure on the Tatmadaw.
Moe Thuzar, a Myanmar citizen and researcher at ISEAS Singapore, said the people of Myanmar are more determined than ever before to take matters into their own hands with a civil disobedience movement.