Southeast Asian leaders meeting in Indonesia called for an immediate end to violence in military-ruled Myanmar, in an effort to create a window for talks and the delivery of humanitarian aid as fighting intensifies.
“We were deeply concerned with ongoing violence in Myanmar and urged the immediate cessation of all forms of violence and the use of force,” leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said in a joint statement during their May 2023 summit.
They called for “a conducive environment for the safe and timely delivery of humanitarian assistance and inclusive national dialogues.”
The 10-member bloc’s summit came as Myanmar’s military intensifies attacks and airstrikes on resistance forces and ethnic minority groups as it tries to consolidate power ahead of a planned election. Days earlier, unknown assailants shot at a convoy of regional diplomats in Myanmar that was delivering supplies for the more than 1.3 million people displaced by conflict.
The military junta, which seized power in a February 2021 coup, has demonstrated no intent to pursue a peace plan agreed upon in April 2021 with ASEAN.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo, pictured, the current ASEAN chair, called for the bloc to speak as one about the challenges it faces in the region.
“Will ASEAN only be silent, or will ASEAN be able to become the driver of peace or growth?” he said.
ASEAN, which has a policy of noninterference in its members’ affairs, has become increasingly assertive with Myanmar’s junta over its failure to implement a five-point peace “consensus” that its top general agreed to after the coup sparked chaos and bloodshed. As of March 2023, more than 3,000 civilians had been killed and at least 16,000 political opponents were imprisoned, the United Nations reported.
“Malaysia is disappointed that there continues to be a lack of meaningful and real progress in the implementation” of the plan, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said.
Myanmar’s junta leaders are barred from attending high-level ASEAN meetings until they honor the peace deal, which includes ceasing hostilities.
Jakarta has been engaging Myanmar’s military and its shadow government, as well as armed ethnic groups to try to kick-start peace talks, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said recently.
“ASEAN is doing as much as it can really because when you are there on the ground it’s not that easy,” Philippine Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo said.
ASEAN leaders also issued a series of joint declarations, including commitments to combat human trafficking, protect migrant workers and support the electric vehicle industry across the region.
IMAGE CREDIT: REUTERS