Southeast Asian foreign ministers reiterated their condemnation of the ongoing violence in Myanmar, as it continues to test the unity of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Myanmar, one of the ten member countries of ASEAN, has been plagued by conflict since the military coup in early 2021. The coup led to a brutal crackdown on pro-democracy supporters, triggering retaliatory attacks by a resistance movement and ethnic minority armies.
In a joint communique released on Thursday, ASEAN’s top diplomats expressed strong condemnation of the violence in Myanmar, including air strikes, artillery shelling, and the destruction of public facilities. The release of the communique was delayed for reasons unknown.
Indonesia, as the meeting chair, had urged foreign ministers to remain united in addressing the escalating violence in Myanmar.
Myanmar’s military leaders have refused to implement a five-point peace plan that calls for an end to violence and inclusive dialogue, despite it being agreed upon shortly after the coup. Malaysia had called for stronger condemnation.
The ASEAN foreign ministers also called on all parties involved to take immediate action to halt indiscriminate violence, condemn any escalation, and create an environment conducive to the delivery of humanitarian aid and inclusive national dialogue.
During the meeting, the South China Sea issue was also discussed. Several ASEAN members have overlapping maritime claims with China, their powerful neighboring country.
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended ASEAN-related meetings in Jakarta this week and held bilateral talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
The ASEAN foreign ministers expressed concerns over land reclamations, activities, and serious incidents in the South China Sea region that put the safety of individuals at risk, without explicitly mentioning China.
The divisions within ASEAN over Myanmar became evident when Thailand invited Myanmar military officials to a meeting last month, aiming to re-engage with the junta. However, due to the lack of progress on the five-point plan, junta officials have been excluded from high-level ASEAN meetings.
Most ASEAN members boycotted the meeting, but Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai defended it, citing the challenges his country faces concerning borders, trade, and refugee issues.
On Wednesday, Don announced that he had recently met with Myanmar’s detained former leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, becoming the first foreign official granted access to the Nobel laureate in over two years since her imprisonment by the military.
The ASEAN ministers acknowledged Thailand’s recent activities regarding Myanmar, which some member states considered a positive development.
The shadow National Unity Government of Myanmar, composed of loyalists to Suu Kyi’s ousted administration, has discouraged ASEAN from engaging with the junta unless all political prisoners are released.
Additional reporting by Gayatri Suroyo; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Simon Lewis, A. Ananthalakshmi, Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore, Raju Gopalakrishan, and Nick Macfie