JAKARTA, INDONESIA — The ASEAN Leaders’ Summit last week culminated in a five-point consensus aimed at resolving the current Myanmar crisis, which was triggered by a military coup in early Feb.
Beyond reaching the consensus, however, questions arise as to how it will actually be implemented and whether the 10-member bloc will be able to take stern action to end the violence in Myanmar.
The five-point consensus focuses on five issues: Ending violence, starting a constructive dialogue involving all related parties, distributing aid to Myanmar, appointing a special envoy to facilitate a discussion, and allowing an envoy to visit the country.
ASEAN under strong criticism for responding too slowly to the Myanmar crisis
The Myanmar military takeover, which led to the arrest of de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi — often regarded as the beacon of democracy for the country — and the country’s president Win Myint has drawn international attention.
Rights activists have slammed ASEAN for responding to the Myanmar situation too slowly.
Data from the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) showed that over 700 have died from the anti-military demonstrations since the coup broke out on 1 Feb.
International relations expert Yusran affirmed this view, saying that ASEAN is often viewed as an organisation that draws up plenty of agreements but one that does little to implement them.
“About how to end the violence, as highlighted in a statement, ASEAN has received a commitment from the junta military to welcome a special envoy who will be tasked to mediate a dialogue involving all concerned parties,” he told TOC in a recent interview.
Yusran opined that ASEAN’s non-interference principle has halted the association’s ability to swiftly take actions to pressure Myanmar.
ASEAN member countries have expressed mixed responses to the Myanmar coup.
Indonesia and Singapore have strongly opposed the violence meted out by the Tatmadaw against pro-democracy protesters and other civilians. Thailand and Laos, however, said that the current situation in Myanmar is its domestic problem.
“Military coup is common in some of the ASEAN member countries like Thailand … In the end, mechanisms in the institution have managed to solve the crisis amid sharp criticism of the bloc’s role in conflict resolution. The most important thing is how ASEAN maximises the use of its channels to solve the crisis peacefully,” the lecturer added.
When can a regional organisation or association such as ASEAN meddle in its member country’s internal affairs?
Yusran stated that in the case of regional organisations or association, a country must get approval from the respected country before taking part to resolve that country’s internal problem as highlighted in the organisation’s Code of Conduct (CoC).
“It’s different if we speak of the United Nations (U.N). The U.N decided to intervene despite opposition like what happened during the first Gulf War. The UNSC then agreed on a military action that led to a resolution.”
“Of course, it can be done as long as no countries veto it in the decision-making process. Whether it is necessary for a regional organisation can step in, it will depend on the permit from the targeted country and the mechanism in the organisation,” Yusran explained.
However, he noted that if the U.N. sees the situation in Myanmar as threatening from many aspects and the UNSC agrees to take multilateral action by sending its troops, such a move can be possible in the current case of Myanmar.
A past example is that of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 that led to the first Gulf War in the early 1990s.
Aid organisations hope for smooth aid delivery in the wake of the summit
Mike Shanley, CEO of AidKonekt Data, a software company that monitors the USAID funding market, welcomed the summit as the five-point consensus includes the importance of aid delivery to Myanmar.
“We hope aid organisations can meet virtually to discuss the priorities and ways forward, and to coordinate their response and investments,” Shanley told TOC in a Skype interview on 29 Apr, adding that the latest situation in Myanmar poses a challenge to aid donors.
“It is important to have a clearer discussion of the roles and coordination platform for international aid donors in responding to the summit outcome. There are significant resources that multilateral and bilateral aid donors can bring to the table, but coordination is always important in maximising the impact of these investments and reducing overlap,” Shanley stated.