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Wednesday, 31 March 2021 13:34

Waiting For ASEAN's Assessive Move Towards Myanmar Crisis

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Hundreds of Burmese or Myanmarese people have died as a result of military action in dealing with anti-coup protests. Reports say more than one hundred civilians, including a 7 year old child, died as a result of the crackdown by the authorities. Some of the people of Myanmar reportedly started to flee their country. The situation is getting worse.

Many parties expect ASEAN to act to find a solution for one of the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo urged the Chair of ASEAN to discuss the Myanmar crisis at the ASEAN summit. On behalf of Indonesia, Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi said Indonesia strongly criticized the military action in demonstrations that killed more than 100 people in one day.

The question then is, will ASEAN do something significant to Myanmar?

There are at least two things that can be seen regarding the possible actions of ASEAN. The first is in the collective perspective, and the second is the attitude of each member country. Collectively, ASEAN member countries have the principles of non-intervention in the domestic affairs of each member. Second, the attitude of each member on the Myanmar crisis caused by the military coup, can also hamper ASEAN's efforts. As known, Vietnam, Laos and Thailand attended the commemoration of Armed Forces Day which was held by the leader of the military coup, General Ming Ang Hlaing recently. This could mean that they may support the military rulers in Myanmar.

Indonesia's call for a high-level meeting with the support of Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines, is hampered by presence of the three countries at the anniversary of the Myanmar Armed Forces.

Indeed, ASEAN assertiveness towards Myanmar is needed despite  the normative narrative regarding the non-intervention principle. ASEAN and any country in the region or in the world, can always  apply the Responsibility to Protect principle recognized by the United Nations. A firm stance by ASEAN on the basis of the UN principle can be a strategic step for Myanmar's own interests. Such action could protect Myanmar from intervention by major powers such as China, Russia and the United States. The interference of big countries against the background of competition for influence, will make a country in crisis go deeper into chaos and the possibility of civil war. Syria, is an example of such a case.

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