October 27, 2022
JAKARTA – We call on ASEAN foreign ministers to take bolder action against the defiant Myanmar junta by recommending that their leaders invite representatives of the government of ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi to the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh.
Excluding the Myanmar military regime from any ASEAN official meetings has proved to be ineffective in bringing changes to the country, where genocidal acts against people have persisted despite the junta leader Gen. Min Aung Hlaing’s pledge to comply with the Five-Point Consensus, he and ASEAN leaders agreed upon in their meeting in April 2021 in Jakarta. The deal requires that the junta ends violence and begins a dialogue toward democracy.
As the Myanmar military junta has shown no respect for the consensus, it only makes sense for ASEAN to get tougher with the brutal regime, which seized power through a coup against the democratically elected civilian government under Suu Kyi in February last year.
As if the breach of the consensus was not enough, the junta-controlled courts have issued verdicts that will keep Suu Kyi in prison for life.
The ASEAN leaders made the right decision in banning the Myanmar general or his representatives from any ASEAN leaders meeting, including the summit with United States President Joe Biden in Washington, DC in February of this year. Initiated by Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, ASEAN has pushed for more actions to punish the barbaric military junta, but the general seems not to care.
While boycotting the junta, ASEAN only allows nonpolitical delegations to represent Myanmar in any ASEAN meetings. Now it is time for the regional grouping to go to the next level by inviting the official representative of Suu Kyi’s government. It may be difficult to determine the most legitimate representative of the ousted government, but there are viable choices to consider.
As Suu Kyi has been isolated from the outside world since February last year and therefore ASEAN will never be able to consult with her on who will represent her government in the next ASEAN meetings, the foreign ministers can ask Suu Kyi’s representative in exile, the National Unity Government (NUG), to come to the summit and speak on her behalf.
Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn is scheduled to chair an emergency meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta tomorrow to prepare subjects for discussion and decisions of the leaders. There is high hope that the nine foreign ministers will be able to reach a consensus to invite Suu Kyi’s representative to the summit in Phnom Penh.
The Myanmar junta has practically lost the confidence of ASEAN. Even Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Brunei Sultan Hasanal Bolkiah have been humiliated by Myanmar’s general in their capacities as ASEAN chairs in 2021 and 2020, respectively.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will take over ASEAN’s annual chairmanship from PM Hun Sen during the summit next month. It was he who initiated the ASEAN emergency summit to talk with Hlaing in Jakarta last year. Jokowi will surely pay particular attention to possible measures to help the Myanmar people escape from their ordeal.
But Indonesia needs a unified ASEAN in dealing with the Myanmar crisis. And there have been encouraging signs that all ASEAN leaders agree that the Myanmar junta has exceeded tolerable limits, even by the standards of undemocratic countries.