Indonesia and ASEAN set up new Office to Deal With Myanmar Crisis

By The Irrawaddy 12 January 2023

Indonesia’s foreign minister Retno Marsudi announced on Wednesday that she will lead a newly-set up office of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) special envoy on Myanmar, to engage with all stakeholders to address the post-coup crisis in the ASEAN member state.

Indonesia holds the ASEAN chair for 2023. During a Wednesday event in the Indonesian capital Jakarta outlining Indonesia’s foreign policy for 2023, foreign minister Retno Marsudi said that as ASEAN chair, and in accordance with the mandate of the Five-Point Consensus adopted by ASEAN in 2021, Indonesia will make every effort to help Myanmar out of its political crisis and won’t allow the Myanmar issue to hold the bloc’s development hostage.

“Only through engagement with all stakeholders can the agreement’s mandate to facilitate the creation of national dialogue be fulfilled,” the foreign minister was quoted as saying in a report in the Jakarta Post newspaper.

The last two ASEAN chairs, Brunei and Cambodia, largely failed to push Myanmar’s military regime to implement the agreed Five-Point Consensus, a peace plan that calls for an immediate end to violence in the country, dialogue among all parties concerned, the appointment of a special envoy, provision of humanitarian assistance by ASEAN, and a visit by the ASEAN’s special envoy to Myanmar to meet with all parties.

Daw Zin Mar Aung, the foreign minister for the parallel National Unity Government (NUG), said in a recent exclusive interview with The Irrawaddy that she expects Indonesia, as ASEAN chair, to engage with all stakeholders and to listen to the voices of not only the military regime but Spring Revolution forces, political groups, ethnic revolutionary organizations, the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw and the NUG.

The NUG foreign minister added that she thinks Indonesia will take a more active approach to resolving the Myanmar crisis, as the country has relevant experience of transforming itself from a military-dominated parliament into a democracy and that will be helpful in the case of Myanmar.

“It [Indonesia] has learned lessons over the past two years, while other countries were the ASEAN chair. So we expect more active engagement from them,” said Daw Zin Mar Aung.

The Myanmar military led by Min Aung Hlaing staged a coup on February 1, 2021. Since then the junta has committed widespread atrocities against civilians including torture, massacres, burning people alive, using people as human shields, air and artillery strikes on residential areas and the looting and torching of houses, which United Nations representatives have called war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Around 2,725 people had been killed by the regime up to December 7, 2022, while more than 17,100 people including government leaders have been detained, according to the rights group the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.