In his virtual meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged his Southeast Asian counterparts to press for an end to the violence in Myanmar, as well as for the release of all political prisoners in the country and a return to democracy.
The meeting was also attended by the Myanmar military regime’s foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin.
Blinken “called on ASEAN to take joint action to urge the end of violence, the restoration of Burma’s [Myanmar’s] democratic transition and the release of all those unjustly detained,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
The US and European nations have been the most vocal opponents of the military takeover that ousted State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government in February.
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested and detained with top members of her National League for Democracy, including President U Win Myint.
Myanmar’s military regime this week filed four new corruption charges against the State Counselor in its latest effort to ensure the country’s ousted civilian leader stays behind bars. She now faces a total of 10 charges and if convicted could be jailed for 75 years, should the sentences be imposed consecutively.
The AP news agency reported that Blinken urged ASEAN to take immediate action “to hold the Burmese regime accountable” to a consensus forged in April by the bloc’s heads of state with Myanmar’s military leader.
The five-point document called for an immediate end to violence and the start of a dialogue among contending parties with a special ASEAN envoy mediating the talks. ASEAN has yet to name the envoy, however, and is reportedly still squabbling over who it should be.
ASEAN’s critics say it is a serious mistake to expect the bloc to lead any effort to find a just resolution to the crisis in Myanmar, pointing out that the regional grouping has so far stuck to its two guiding principles—noninterference and consensus. Moreover, several of ASEAN’s 10 member nations are themselves undemocratic regimes.
Meanwhile, Myanmar’s state run newspaper the Global New Light of Myanmar published a front page story on Wunna Maung Lwin’s attendance at the US-ASEAN meeting, headlined “Union Minister Participates in Special ASEAN-US Foreign Ministers’ Meeting via Videoconference”.
The report said, “During the meeting, Union Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin appreciated the United States’ support for ASEAN’s effort in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, encouraged the United States to further support ASEAN’s COVID-19 response initiatives, and to continue to support [the] Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI).”
It continued, “With regard to developments in Myanmar, the Union Minister explained on matters relating to the security condition in the country, the five-point roadmap of the State Administration Council and the five-point consensus of the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting.”
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