Foreign ministers express disappointment at the military administration’s failure to implement the crisis plan adopted in April 2021.
Foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to bar Myanmar’s ruling generals from the group’s meetings until they make progress on a 15-month-old plan to deal with the crisis sparked by the military coup.
At a press conference at the end of a series of ASEAN regional meetings in Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, who is also a special envoy to Myanmar, said the generals “must act in a way that shows progress so we will be in able to act on a decision to show progress”.
On Friday, the foreign ministers condemned the lack of progress in the so-called Five-point consensus was agreed with army chief and coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in April 2021, and required the self-proclaimed State Administrative Council (SAC) to take steps to comply with the plan before a regional summit in November.
The ministers said they were “deeply disappointed by the Naypyidaw authorities’ limited progress and lack of commitment to the timely and full implementation of the Five Point Consensus”.
And in a veiled warning to Myanmar’s military authorities, the statement – which refers to Article 20 of the ASEAN Charter – noted that the leaders’ meeting later this year could still take action against “non-compliance”.
Myanmar was plunged into crisis when the military detained elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other senior officials in February 2021 and seized power.
The coup prompted a mass civil disobedience movement, nationwide protests and the formation of armed groups against coups to which the military has responded with brutal force.
Some 2,158 people have been killed by the armed forces since the coup, and anger has grown over the generals’ intransigence, especially after the execution last month of four political prisoners.
The military rejects the statement
In a foreign ministry statement published on the front page of the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar on Saturday, the military said it rejected the ASEAN communique and would continue to follow its own “five-point plan”, which was printed alongside the statement on the newspaper’s front page .
“Myanmar believes that ASEAN can only maintain its unity and centrality in the long term if all ASEAN member states respect the provisions and fundamental principles of the ASEAN Charter, especially equality, inclusiveness, sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of ASEAN member states. ,” it said.
Military-appointed foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin was not invited to Phnom Penh and was also left out of a foreign ministers’ retreat in February, while Min Aung Hlaing was snubbed at last year’s leaders’ summit.
ASEAN foreign ministers also condemned last month’s executions by Phyo Zeya Thaw, a rapper-turned-politician who was a member of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party, and veteran political activist Kyaw Min Yu, popularly known as Ko Jimmy.
Malaysia has led calls for a tougher approach to Myanmar’s military administration and has also encouraged the group to engage in National Unity Government (NUG) established by the elected politicians, the generals removed from power.
The Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore have also pushed for a firmer line.
The Five-Point Consensus called for an immediate end to violence, the appointment of a special envoy and discussions involving all stakeholders. Friday’s ASEAN statement stressed that the envoy must be allowed to meet with “all relevant stakeholders”.
The SAC did not allow the first ASEAN envoy, Brunei’s foreign minister, to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, nor has it allowed Prak Sokhonn to do so.
The Nobel laureate has been jailed following a trial in closed court and faces a series of charges that could put her behind bars for years.
Myanmar joined ASEAN in 1997 under a former military regime.
SAC has tried to portray those who oppose its power grab as “terrorists”.
The UN says hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes as a result of military attacks, while human rights experts have accused the military of war crimes for attacks on civilians.