LABUAN BAJO, INDIA – Southeast Asian countries have made “no significant progress” in executing a peace plan aimed at halting killing in Myanmar, according to Indonesian President Joko Widodo on the penultimate day of a summit.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) gathering on the Indonesian island of Flores has been dominated by escalating violence in junta-ruled Myanmar.
Although the regional organization has led diplomatic attempts to address the conflict, it has yet to implement a five-point plan agreed upon with Myanmar two years ago.
Since deposing Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, the military has carried out a violent crackdown on dissent, killing hundreds and fighting armed opposition to its control.
As ASEAN leaders began the final day of discussions in the fishing village of Labuan Bajo, Indonesian President Joko Widodo confessed that “no significant progress” had been made in executing the peace plan.
“We need the unity of ASEAN to chart our way forward,” Widodo remarked through a translator.
Divisions among ASEAN countries appear to have impeded those attempts at the meeting.
According to an internal report on the foreign ministers’ deliberations, some countries wished to reintroduce the junta to ASEAN meetings because “the time for isolation has served its purpose.”
“There was also an observation that ASEAN may be experiencing ‘Myanmar fatigue,’ which may distract ASEAN from larger goals of ASEAN Community-building,” according to the paper seen by AFP.
“Patience, flexibility, and creativity will thus be required, as there will be no quick fix to the crisis.”
Myanmar remains a member of the 10-member ASEAN bloc, but it has been excluded from attending ASEAN summits owing to the junta’s inability to implement the peace plan.
The junta has refused to communicate with its opponents, who include deposed MPs, anti-coup “People’s Defense Forces” and armed ethnic minority organizations.
Last month’s air raid on a town in a rebel stronghold, which reportedly killed around 170 people, provoked global outcry and exacerbated the junta’s isolation.
Jakarta’s presidency of the bloc this year fueled hopes that ASEAN may use its economic and diplomatic weight to advocate for a peaceful solution.
The violent attack on a convoy transporting diplomats and officials coordinating ASEAN humanitarian supplies in Myanmar on Sunday heightened calls for stronger measures.
Critics have long criticized ASEAN as a toothless talking shop, but its charter principles of consensus and non-interference have hampered its ability to put a halt to the violence in Myanmar.
The most recent draft of the summit statement seen by AFP leaves the paragraph on Myanmar open, underscoring diplomatic problems over the topic.
A review of the charter was “long overdue,” according to Lina Alexandra of the Jakarta-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“What will you do if you see your next-door neighbor’s house on fire?” “Can you just be quiet, it’s not my problem?” she asked.