ASEAN ministers to hold emergency talks on Myanmar

By AFP 23 October 2022

PHNOM PENH—Southeast Asian foreign ministers will hold emergency talks in Jakarta next week to discuss strife-torn Myanmar ahead of November’s ASEAN leaders’ summit, diplomatic sources said Friday.

Myanmar has been in chaos since a coup in February last year, with more than 2,300 killed in the military’s brutal crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has spearheaded so far fruitless efforts to resolve the crisis, and the bloc is frustrated by escalating human rights atrocities — including the execution of political prisoners and a recent airstrike on a school.

There has been little progress on a five-point plan from April last year, which called for an end to violence, increased humanitarian aid, as well as dialogue between the military and the anti-coup movement.

An Indonesian foreign ministry official said a meeting was scheduled for Thursday at the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta.

The talks are expected to review progress on the plan.

“A special meeting is now needed as there are specific issues that will be looked into further before the leaders’ meeting,” the official told AFP.

“The Myanmar junta doesn’t show any desire or concrete steps for implementation (of the plan).”

The official noted that any potential suspension of Myanmar’s ASEAN membership would not be an easy process.

Another diplomatic source told AFP that article seven of the ASEAN charter, which allows the 10-country bloc’s leaders to address an emergency situation, would be the basis for action.

International Institute for Strategic Studies analyst Aaron Connelly said possible options included a de facto suspension and an expansion of the number of meetings that junta officials were not invited to attend.

“They might for instance no longer attend the defence ministers’ meeting,” he said.

Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn — who is a special envoy to Myanmar as part of his country’s role as host of the ASEAN summit — will chair Thursday’s meeting.

Chum Sounry, Cambodia’s foreign ministry spokesman, told AFP a team had been sent to Myanmar to discuss concrete action and the envoy’s third visit to the country — originally slated for September.

“We are now waiting for a response from the Myanmar side,” he said.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing has not been invited to the ASEAN leaders’ summit — for the second year in a row — and Myanmar’s top diplomat Wunna Maung Lwin was excluded from ministerial talks in February and August.