Indonesia's Widodo Admits No Progress by ASEAN on Myanmar Peace Plan
By AFP 11 May 2023
LABAUN BAJO, Indonesia—Southeast Asian nations have made “no significant progress” on implementing a peace plan aimed at ending bloodshed in Myanmar, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Thursday, on the final day of a summit.
Escalating violence in junta-ruled Myanmar has dominated the three-day meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the Indonesian island of Flores.
The regional bloc has spearheaded diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, though a five-point plan agreed upon with the Myanmar junta two years ago has yet to be enacted.
Since the military ousted Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s government it has overseen a bloody crackdown on dissent, killing thousands of people and battling armed resistance to its rule.
As ASEAN leaders began their final day of talks in the fishing town of Labuan Bajo, Indonesian President Joko Widodo admitted they had made “no significant progress” on implementing the peace plan.
“We need the unity of ASEAN to chart our way forward,” Widodo said through a translator.
Divisions among ASEAN members at the summit appear to have hampered those efforts.
An internal report on the foreign ministers’ discussions said some countries wanted to invite the junta back to ASEAN meetings because “the time for isolation has served its purpose”.
“There was also an observation that ASEAN might be experiencing a ‘Myanmar fatigue’, which might distract ASEAN from larger goals of ASEAN Community-building,” said the document seen by AFP.
“Patience, flexibility and creativity are therefore required since there will be no quick fix to the crisis.”
Myanmar still belongs to the 10-member ASEAN bloc but has been barred from its summits due to the junta’s failure to implement the peace plan.
The junta has spurned international criticism and refused to engage with its opponents, which include ousted lawmakers, anti-coup People’s Defense Forces and armed ethnic minority groups.
An air strike on a village in a rebel stronghold last month that reportedly killed about 170 people sparked global condemnation and worsened the junta’s isolation.
Jakarta’s chairing of the bloc this year had raised hopes ASEAN could push for a peaceful solution, using its economic weight as well as its diplomatic experience.
Sunday’s armed attack on a convoy carrying diplomats and officials coordinating ASEAN humanitarian relief in Myanmar had increased pressure for tougher action.
ASEAN has long been decried by critics as a toothless talking shop, but its charter principles of consensus and non-interference have hamstrung its ability to stop the violence in Myanmar.
The latest draft of the end-of-summit statement seen by AFP has left the paragraph on Myanmar open, reflecting diplomatic difficulties over the issue.
A review of the charter was “long overdue”, said Lina Alexandra of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta.
“When you see your next-door neighbor’s house is burning, what will you do? Can you just stay silent; it’s not my problem?” she said.