Indonesia, the ASEAN chair, said Friday that it was stepping up efforts to execute a five-point accord to eliminate instability in post-coup Myanmar, while Burmese civil society groups demanded that the “ineffective” plan be scrapped.
The Myanmar conflict is expected to be one of the primary subjects of a series of ministerial-level talks that Indonesia will host next week as the ASEAN chair in 2023. The talks will include ASEAN members as well as other countries such as the United States, China, and Russia.
According to Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Jakarta has been talking with all parties in Myanmar in order to convince them to support the implementation of the consensus.
“We have conducted 110 engagements, in the form of in-person meetings, virtual meetings, and phone calls, including my own face-to-face meetings with both the NUG and SAC foreign ministers on several occasions,” Retno told Benarnews, referring to the National Unity Government, the shadow civilian administration, and the junta known as the State Administration Council.
During an emergency conference in April 2021, ASEAN leaders reached a consensus, but the Southeast Asian bloc has since been heavily criticised for failing to implement the five-point plan.
Bloodshed in Myanmar
It tries to reduce bloodshed in Myanmar following the military’s overthrow of an elected government in February of that year. The proposal calls for an immediate cessation of violence, a constructive conversation between all parties, the establishment of a special envoy, the distribution of humanitarian aid, and the visit of a mission to Myanmar.
The junta agreed to this consensus but then broke it, causing ASEAN to bar any Myanmar junta delegate from its meetings beginning in October 2021.
Meanwhile, a network of Burmese civil society groups calling itself Myanmar Spring’s youthful revolutionaries said the exclusion was a sham because Indonesia was communicating with the regime through the office of the special envoy.
“[T]he Special Envoy’s official engagement with the illegal military junta is inconsistent with ASEAN’s decision and stance to exclude and ban members of the military junta from all high-level ASEAN meetings,” according to a statement issued Friday by representatives of several civil society groups.
On Monday, representatives from the various factions met with Ngurah.
“[T]he representatives expressed their concern and frustration with ASEAN’s ineffectiveness and failure to stop the terrorist military junta’s violence and atrocities against the people of Myanmar over the past two years since the adoption of the Five-Point Consensus (5PC) on April 24, 2021,” the statement said.
They also told Ngurah that “the ineffective 5PC will only embolden the terrorist junta to commit further crimes and exacerbate the plight of the people of Myanmar.”
In May, Indonesia’s president acknowledged that no progress had been made in executing the peace plan.
Over 3000 civilians killed
According to human rights organisations, Myanmar’s junta has always repressed such rallies, killing over 3,000 people and arresting thousands more. According to the United Nations, violence in Myanmar has driven more than 1.8 million people to evacuate their homes since the coup.
Despite this, ASEAN “continues to stick to a plan agreed in April 2021 that has palpably failed,” according to CIVICUS Lens, a civil society organisation that analyses current events.
“A significant challenge is that the majority of ASEAN states have no interest in democracy.” “Half of them are outright authoritarian regimes, and the other half are democracies with flaws – sometimes serious flaws,” the group stated in a late June essay.
“However, the continued emphasis on the 5PC as the baseline consensus has not obscured divisions among ASEAN states.” However, the fact that they are formally staying with it allows the international community to take a step back and do nothing in the name of supporting regional leadership and giving the 5PC a chance.”
Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam are not democracies, and Thailand’s outgoing government came to power in a military coup, similar to the present Myanmar regime.
CIVICUS Lens also highlighted Thailand’s move to break with ASEAN and hold negotiations with Myanmar’s military.
Indonesia condemned the Thai meeting in June as non-formal on Friday.
“With regard to the informal meeting in Thailand, it was once again an ASEAN informal meeting, and only the foreign minister of Laos attended.” “The 5PC is the primary avenue for resolving the Myanmar issue,” Foreign Minister Retno stated.
Myanmar Junta Non-compliance
In addition to Thailand and Myanmar, delegates from ASEAN countries Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and the Philippines, as well as India and China, were present at the Pattaya meeting.
According to some observers, ASEAN’s stance to Myanmar demonstrates the organization’s limits as a consensus-based organisation that prioritizes stability and non-interference in the domestic affairs of its members.
Furthermore, while Jakarta should be commended for holding so many meetings with many stakeholders, it was impossible to judge the progress of its diplomatic engagements because they were confidential, according to Hunter Marston, an Australian National University scholar.
“It’s also possible that the Indonesian government underestimated the extent to which the current conflict is entrenched, as well as the unwillingness of the warring parties to consider a peaceful settlement that does not include the complete eradication of the opposing side,” he told BenarNews.
He stated that the outcome of Indonesia’s efforts was still unknown.
“However, if nothing happens by the conclusion of Indonesia’s presidency, everyone will point and say, ‘See? “There was never any chance of progress in the first place,” he remarked.