China Says ASEAN Summit Should Fend off External Interference in Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 23 April 2021

Two days before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) emergency summit on Myanmar, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi has warned that the meeting should be conducive to “fending off external interference” as that makes “no contribution to solving the problems of a country’s internal affairs”.

China’s top diplomat made the comments during a telephone conversation with the Thai deputy prime minister and the second minister of foreign affairs of Brunei, the current chair of the 10-nation bloc.

The purpose of the ASEAN summit on Saturday in Jakarta is to look for solutions to the deteriorating situation in post-coup Myanmar, and to discuss the potential repercussions of the military’s takeover for the region and beyond. Myanmar is a member of ASEAN and coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing will attend the meeting. China has been pushing ASEAN to take a stand on Myanmar.

“It (external interference) will bring turbulence and even deteriorate the situation, further affecting and disrupting regional stability,” Wang said in the phone call.

Foreign minister Wang’s comments are thought to be a reference to the repeated calls of pro-democracy supporters in Myanmar for the international community to intervene in the country under the auspices of R2P – Responsibility to Protect – a global commitment adopted by all United Nations (UN) members in 2005. R2P allows the international community to take collective action if a state fails to protect its own population from atrocities such as war crimes, genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Since the junta’s Feb. 1 coup, the regime has killed at least 739 civilians, including 50 children, and arrested 3,370 people, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

China has failed to take a strong stand against the military takeover in Myanmar. Despite demands from pro-democracy groups in the country that the international community apply “serious pressure” on the junta, Beijing has repeatedly blocked UN Security Council attempts to take action against the coup leaders and prevent further bloodshed. Beijing has repeatedly insisted that the crisis in Myanmar is an internal affair.

Wang Yi said that China calls on the international community, with an objective and impartial attitude, to do more to relieve the tense situation in Myanmar, instead of the contrary.

He urged that the international community jointly support ASEAN in its role and said he hoped that Saturday summit would pave a way to deescalate the situation in Myanmar.

Wang said that meeting should be conducive to promoting political reconciliation in Myanmar, adding that whether the Myanmar issue can be properly resolved depends mainly on the country itself.

The way out of the current crisis is for all parties in Myanmar to seek new understanding through political dialogue within the constitutional and legal framework, and to continue pushing forward the hard-won democratic transition, said Wang.

China will maintain close communication with ASEAN and continue to work with all parties in Myanmar in its own way, he added.

In late March, the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar spoke for the first time with members of the committee representing elected lawmakers from the ousted National League for Democracy government.

During the meeting, the lawmakers urged China to back the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), which was founded after the coup as a rival administration to the military regime. However, the Chinese diplomats did not state clearly whether Beijing sought a mediation role in any dialogue between the CRPH and the junta.

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