ASEAN foreign ministers seek de-escalation of Myanmar crisis

Mar 03 , 2021. 11 hours ago – 23:28 KYODO NEWS

Protesters defend themselves with makeshift shields during clashes with riot police on Feb. 28, 2021 in Yangon, Myanmar. (Getty/Kyodo)

JAKARTA/SINGAPORE – Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations called Tuesday for de-escalation of the situation in protest-hit Myanmar and for dialogue to peacefully resolve the post-coup political crisis, while suggesting a bigger role for ASEAN.

An ASEAN chair’s statement issued after their online meeting said the ministers “expressed our concern on the situation in Myanmar and called on all parties to refrain from instigating further violence, and for all sides to exercise utmost restraint as well as flexibility.”

They also called on all parties concerned “to seek a peaceful solution, through constructive dialogue, and practical reconciliation in the interests of the people and their livelihood.”

“In this regard, we expressed ASEAN’s readiness to assist Myanmar in a positive, peaceful and constructive manner,” the statement said.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, who had pressed for the special meeting held via videoconferencing, told reporters afterward, “ASEAN met to discuss and seek solutions, but it takes two to tango.”

“The wish and goodwill of ASEAN to help will be unable to be carried out if Myanmar doesn’t open its doors to ASEAN,” she said.

“Internal communications and dialogues among stakeholders in Myanmar will surely always become the best option, but Indonesia believes that ASEAN also stands ready to facilitate such dialogues when requested.”

In his intervention at the meeting, Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein asked Myanmar to consider proposed visits to the country by the ASEAN secretary general and a representative of Brunei, which holds the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN this year, with them being given access to all parties involved.

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan proposed that U.N. secretary general’s special envoy on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener also be allowed to visit as soon as possible to meet all key stakeholders, including ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi who he said should be released from detention.

“The immediate priority must be to step back from a rapidly deteriorating situation. It is not too late,” Balakrishnan said, while admonishing Myanmar military authorities over the use of lethal force against unarmed protesters.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin, in his remarks at the meeting, urged “the complete return to the previously existing state of affairs” before the military seized power on Feb. 1, ending a decade of civilian rule.

“And the first step should be for the immediate release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and subsequent dialogue among the parties involved in their country’s destiny,” he said.

The Indonesian and Malaysian foreign ministers similarly all urged that all political detainees be released.

Hishamuddin said ASEAN will continue engaging with its international partners collectively, or through the establishment of an ASEAN Troika, on the situation in Myanmar, while Balakrishnan urged ASEAN’s external partners “not to impose broad-based economic sanctions that will harm the ordinary people of Myanmar.”

All the 10 ASEAN foreign ministers attended the meeting including Myanmar’s military-appointed Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Cr.KYODO NEWS