JAKARTA, INDONESIA — The Myanmar military junta orchestrated a coup of the civilian government led by de facto leader and Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi early last week, which triggered worldwide condemnation.
Besides Suu Kyi, other leaders have also been detained, including the country’s president Win Myint.
The military takeover stemmed from alleged fraud in the election held in November last year. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won the vote.
Brunei Darussalam—current chair of ASEAN—consulted with Member States of other blocs to consolidate the response to the current situation in Myanmar, said the country’s Foreign Ministry on 1 Feb.
Myanmar and a divided ASEAN
As a whole, however, ASEAN member countries do not appear to be on the same page regarding conflict resolution of the Myanmar situation — each nation has a different statement regarding the country’s political tensions.
“Thailand, Cambodia, and the Philippines are of the view that what’s going on in Myanmar is its internal problem and there is nothing they can do to push the Myanmar military to stop its actions.
“On the other hand, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia raised deep concerns over the military coup in Myanmar,” Indonesian international relations expert Yusran told TOC last Friday (5 Feb).
Citing the human rights violations on the Rohingya Muslims, dubbed as “the world’s most persecuted minority”, the lecturer added that the bloc’s non-interventionist policies, as stated in the ASEAN Charter at its establishment in 1967, can be somewhat complicated when a crisis emerges and requires a quick response.
The United Nations dact-finding team for Myanmar criticised ASEAN for being too slow in tackling the humanitarian crisis affecting Rohingyas, adding that the bloc should have been able to urge Myanmar to stop its repressive act against Rohingyas.
Is the bloc’s non-intervention policy still relevant?
Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo and Malaysia’s Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin—the latter of whom made a two-day visit to Jakarta on 4 Feb and 5 Feb—urged the bloc to hold a meeting to discuss the political tension in Myanmar.
In the joint statement, both leaders agreed to send their foreign ministers to propose a meeting related to the Myanmar issue.
“Whether the non-interventionist principle is still relevant or not, I think ASEAN—which has existed for over five decades—should reform in its principle. ASEAN can play a bigger role in responding to problems in its Member States, like what is happening to Myanmar now. A prompt response is needed to make sure ASEAN’s relations with other countries are not affected,” Yusran said.
Many experts claim that the ASEAN’s non-intervention principle is no longer relevant in this modern world, especially when it comes to human rights violations.
ASEAN’s rights commission was set up in 2009. However, the commission has purportedly not done anything to stop the violence against the Rohingya people.
Enny Soeprapto, a former Indonesian official at the UN’s refugees agency (UNHCR), said that the ASEAN human rights commission only urges ASEAN member countries to protect human rights values.