February 3, 2022
JAKARTA – Myanmar’s government-in-exile has criticized Asean’s “lack of leadership” in response to last year’s military coup in the country, which uprooted democracy and created an ongoing humanitarian crisis. The Feb. 1, 2021, coup threw Myanmar into disarray, triggering mass protests and a violent crackdown on dissent, which saw more than 1,500 civilians killed and thousands more arrested by junta forces.
The suppression efforts have largely failed to dampen resistance to the junta, even under severe pandemic stress. An official from the exiled Myanmar National Unity Government (NUG) said on Tuesday that Asean had failed to lay out concrete plans to implement its own intervention mandate, particularly on delivering humanitarian relief.
NUG spokesperson Sasa insisted that Asean could not just set out its demands – known as the Five-Point Consensus (5PC) – and then sit back and wait for results.
“There is no strategy to implement them. There is no inclusiveness in engagement,” he said in a virtual discussion cohosted by the Thai Public Broadcasting Service on the one-year anniversary of the coup.
The NUG was formed by the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), a group of elected lawmakers and members of parliament who were ousted in the coup d’etat in Naypyidaw.
During the putsch, security forces arrested political leaders and officials of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party, including State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, who had struck a precarious alliance with Myanmar’s military, the Tatmadaw, for the better part of a decade.
Those who escaped regrouped to form the NUG. The international community rallied behind the people of Myanmar, who were persecuted for their resistance to the regime and suffered from severe and little-managed COVID-19 outbreaks.
But major world powers and the United Nations as a whole agreed to rely on Asean to lead the coup response.
Sasa said the international community had put a lot of hope in Asean but that “a lack of strategy, a timetable and leadership” had thwarted efforts to resolve the crisis.
“In Myanmar, the people are losing hope in ASEAN because the [5PC] has been there for many months without results on the ground,” he said. “Asean’s five points must produce results in Myanmar – not in Cambodia and not in Jakarta.”
The consensus points include an immediate cessation of violence, mediation involving all parties to the conflict facilitated by a special envoy and the delivery of humanitarian assistance.
The consensus itself is the product of a meeting in Jakarta in April 2020 between the nine Asean leaders and Myanmar coup leader Min Aung Hlaing.
Current Asean chair Cambodia sought in January to suggest it had made progress on the crisis, a claim analysts say was misleading.
Cambodian leader Hun Sen and junta boss Min Aung Hlaing made a joint statement affirming that progress had been made on ceasefire talks with local armed ethnic groups – a point not included in the 5PC.
Saw Nimrod of the Karen National Union (KNU), who was also present at the discussion on Tuesday, said ceasefire talks in Myanmar were an existing process that had been playing out over the last decade.
He said the KNU had signed a ceasefire deal with the government in 2012, hoping that the country would reform and move toward democracy. He acknowledged that the process was flawed and that not all groups had joined in.
“The coup makes it difficult for the KNU and other ethnic organisations, who have been building trust over the past 10 years, to continue [wondering] what is going to happen next and what the future holds for the country’s political processes,” he said.
Indonesia, the de facto leader of Asean, reiterated on Tuesday that it was disappointed that no “significant progress” had been made in the implementation of the 5PC.
“[Tuesday] marks one year after the Myanmar military’s seizure of power. Indonesia strongly deplores this action,” the Foreign Ministry wrote in a statement.
“As a family, Asean has extended a helping hand through the 5PC. Unfortunately, to date, there has not been significant progress on the implementation of the 5PC.”
The ministry statement also urged the Tatmadaw to implement the consensus “without further delay” and “immediately provide” access to the bloc’s special envoy on Myanmar so that he could carry out his duties in accordance with the Asean mandate.