Calls grow for Indonesia to engage with Myanmar’s NUG as incoming Asean chair

While Indonesia would be next year’s chair, it would still be bound by the decisions made at the upcoming Asean Summit.

A. Muh. Ibnu Aqil

A. Muh. Ibnu Aqil

The Jakarta Post


A police officer walks past a display sign for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Oct. 27, 2022 while on duty at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. (Reuters/Willy Kurniawan)

November 8, 2022

JAKARTA – Activists are calling for Indonesia as next year’s ASEAN chair to start engaging with and recognizing the National Unity Government (NUG), as the regional bloc’s Five-Point Consensus and other efforts to engage with the military junta had failed to improve the situation in Myanmar.

Advisory board chair Khin Ohmar of the Progressive Voice Myanmar advocacy group said the people of Myanmar continued to resist the junta’s rule, including through the NUG, Myanmar’s government in exile composed of leaders elected in the 2020 general election.

She said the fact that ASEAN kept referring to the Myanmar junta instead of all stakeholders was a problem, and the reason that the Five-Point Consensus had failed to deliver.

“We are proposing that the Indonesian government, during its [2023] chairmanship, start formally engaging with the NUG and other key stakeholders [in Myanmar],” Ohmar told a press briefing in Jakarta on Wednesday.

Debbie Stothard, a coordinator at rights group ALTSEAN-Burma, said while ASEAN had agreed last year to prevent Myanmar junta representatives from attending the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting and summit, the junta had not reduced its violence in Myanmar or implemented the Five-Point Consensus.

“We are asking for Indonesia as the [incoming] chair to extend the ban on political representation to all ASEAN ministerial meetings,” Stothard said at the same briefing.

Meanwhile, the International Parliamentary Inquiry (IPI) on Myanmar said in a report that governments across the world had failed to properly respond to the junta’s coup, while ASEAN and the United Nations Security Council remained paralyzed on the issue.

Titled Time is not on our side: The Failed International Response to the Myanmar Coup, the report also alleged that some countries, particularly Russia and China, had instead supported the Myanmar junta.

‘Recognition is key’

Heidi Hautala, IPI chair and European Parliament vice president, said Myanmar’s pro-democracy movement needed recognition and support from the entire world.

“Acknowledging the NUG as the legitimate authority in Myanmar is absolutely key,” Hautala said during the launch of the IPI report on Wednesday in Bangkok.

“This has been our message to governments and parliaments to whom we have been talking during our inquiry.”

IPI member Charles Santiago, who chairs the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) board, said the group’s first recommendation for ASEAN was to be wary of the planned 2023 election in Myanmar and the possibility of a new constitution being written.

“I think ASEAN heads of governments and foreign ministers who will meet in the next couple of days have to come up with a very clear [statement] that they will not accept an election in Myanmar,” said Santiago.

He added that the junta’s Gen. Min Aung Hlaing had proved to be an untrustworthy and irresponsible partner in the last two years, and that ASEAN should abandon its Five-Point Consensus. The bloc instead needed to negotiate a new agreement on the Myanmar crisis with the NUG and representatives of the Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAO) in Myanmar with a new enforcement mechanism, specific timeline and oversight bodies.

Santiago also said the ASEAN special envoy to Myanmar should be made a full-time position appointed by all ASEAN members and placed under the ASEAN Secretary-General, rather than under the rotating ASEAN chair.

While Indonesia would be next year’s ASEAN chair, he continued, it would still be bound by the decisions made at the upcoming ASEAN Summit, including any decisions on Myanmar.

“Indonesia should push hard for the NUG to be recognized as the legitimate authority of Myanmar. They [the NUG] should be included on an urgent basis as part of the negotiations on developing and strengthening the Five-Point Consensus,” he underlined.

Separately, Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah said that inclusive engagement with all stakeholders in Myanmar was ongoing at various levels, although whether certain engagements would be formalized remained to be seen.

“There’s one process that we have not gone through yet, which is the ASEAN Summit in Cambodia. There, we will see recommendations on the Myanmar issue that Indonesia will have to follow up as the upcoming ASEAN chair,” Faizasyah told a press briefing on Thursday.

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