After attending a meeting among leaders of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) on Saturday (25 Apr), Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan took to his Facebook to note how the meeting has been “a productive step” in the “right direction”.
The meeting, which took place in Jakarta, was also attended by junta leader General Min Aung Hlaing.
Dr Balakrishnan noted that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has called for the cessation of violence in Myanmar, the release of all political detainees, and the resumption of dialogue among all key stakeholders in Myanmar.
“He also emphasized the need for ASEAN to play a constructive role, and for Myanmar to facilitate a visit by an ASEAN delegation, and humanitarian assistance led by ASEAN,” he wrote.
In his post, Dr Balakrishnan also pledged to “build on the momentum with my ASEAN counterparts to forge a way forward on the situation in Myanmar”.
During the meeting, ASEAN leaders agreed on the following points, as listed in the Chairman’s statement:
- There shall be an immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar, and that all parties shall exercise utmost restraint;
- Constructive dialogue among all parties concerned shall commence seeking a peaceful solution in the interests of the people;
- A special envoy of the ASEAN Chair shall facilitate mediation of the dialogue process, with the assistance of the Secretary-General of ASEAN;
- ASEAN shall provide humanitarian assistance through ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre); and
- The special envoy and delegation shall visit Myanmar to meet with all parties concerned.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, PM Lee noted that Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing is “not opposed” to a visit from an ASEAN delegation or humanitarian assistance.
“At the end of this, General Min Aung Hlaing responded,” said PM Lee, as quoted by CNA.
“He said he heard us, he would take the points in which he considered helpful, that he was not opposed to ASEAN playing a constructive role, or an ASEAN delegation visit, or humanitarian assistance, and that they would move forward and engage with ASEAN in a constructive way,” he added.
PM Lee said that while he presumes ASEAN will now work to put together a delegation to visit Myanmar and start coordinating humanitarian assistance for the country, there is “a long way forward”.
“I’m sure that in implementing this, there’s a long way forward because there’s one thing to say you’ll cease violence and release political prisoners; it’s another thing to get it done.
“And to have an inclusive discussion in order to reach a political resolution is even harder still, but at least there is some steps forward which we can take,” he noted.
Over on social media, netizens particularly those from Myanmar, flooded Dr Balakrishnan’s Facebook post with comments questioning ASEAN’s decision to invite the Myanmar military junta leader to join the summit, given that the people of Myanmar have overwhelmingly and openly rejected him as their leader.
Since the military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a Feb 1 coup, Myanmar has undergone a major political upheaval, with near-daily protests and a nationwide boycott of work in all sectors of society staged to demand a return to democracy.
Security forces have deployed live ammunition to quell the uprising, killing more than 740 people in brutal crackdowns, according to the local monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) on Sunday (25 Apr).
One netizen wrote: “The very minute this general was invited to this summit already telling him he can go away freely with his crimes.”
One netizen wrote that ASEAN should invite the National Unity Government (NUG) instead, which was formed by pro-democracy politicians on 16 Apr, to attend the meeting and start recognizing the party as the “representative of Myanmar”.
“Min Aung Hlaing just took off his uniform to arrive at the ASEAN summit. ASEAN should invite NUG Myanmar and have to be mindful not to refer to the military council as the representative of Myanmar!” said the netizen.
Some netizens urged ASEAN to discuss with the NUG instead, saying that the people of Myanmar support the party as their “legitimate government”, not the military junta.
One user stressed that the “main point” of the meeting should be “returning the power to civilians” which the only thing desired by the people of Myanmar. Another user wrote: “ASEAN is lending recognition to military junta in its own old way by trying to slow down the pace of anti-coup protests in Myanmar.”Others called for Myanmar to be returned to democratic leadership, urging ASEAN leaders to recognise the votes of the people in the general election.