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Jakarta summit-Myanmar and ASEAN after coup

  • 13 May, 2021

  • 8 Min Read

Jakarta summit-Myanmar and ASEAN after coup

Introduction

  • On February 1, Army trucks and tanks rolled into the streets of Naypyidaw and Yangon, signaling the military’s overthrow of a government in which it had a sizeable share of power.
  • The generals felt insecure with the landslide victory of the Aung San Suu Kyi-led National League for Democracy (NLD) in the November 2020 elections.
  • They decided to exert full control and terminate the experiment of transition to democracy that their wiser predecessors had initiated in 2010.

Paying a hefty price

  • The costs of this political U-turn have been high.
  • People clashed with police and army units wielding batons, rubber bullets and live ammunitions.
  • Youth, women, professional groups and ethnic minorities rose in unison to demand the release of their elected leaders and return of freedoms and democracy.
  • The civil disobedience movement began to lose momentum from early April.
  • The people paid a heavy price: 750 were killed, thousands injured, and over 2,500 detained.
  • The Army offered a fundamentally unfair solution: the results of the 2020 elections were set aside, new elections were promised in a year or two and so was a ‘disciplined democracy’ (in which the military presumably would have more control).
  • People opposing the military initially called for the restoration of the status quo ante i.e., undo the coup and let the newly elected parliament function, with a new NLD government.
  • As there were no signs of the acceptance of this demand and violence escalated, positions hardened.
  • The opposition then came up with a new, radical package, including rejection of the 2008 constitution, adoption of a new Federal Democracy Charter, and announcement of the ‘national unity government’ with representation from the majority Bamar and ethnic minority communities.
    • The generals were not impressed.

ASEAN mediation

  • The ASEAN group, which includes Myanmar, was deeply concerned over the coup’s adverse impact.
  • ASEAN followed its activist tradition to assist Myanmar in exiting from this quagmire.
  • But first it had to bridge internal differences, with members like Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam inclined to be sympathetic to the military and others like Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore keen to mediate in the Myanmar crisis for the region’s larger good.
  • The U.S., the U.K. and the European Union zealously advocated a policy of condemnation and strong sanctions against the military regime, while China and Russia were determined to protect the generals from excessive censure and opposition, on the ground that greater instability would jeopardise their interests.
  • Fortunately, other Asian powers, notably India and Japan, preferred to support reconciliation.
  • Two major features of the Jakarta summit (Conducteed by the UNs special director to solve Myanmar crisis) outcome need to be appreciated.

Five-point consensus

  • First, the Five-Point Consensus has the presumed concurrence of Myanmar’s new strong man, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
  • Its contents include:
    • immediate cessation of violence;
    • supply of humanitarian assistance;
    • constructive dialogue; and
    • ASEAN’s mediation through the visit by a special envoy of ASEAN’s Chair and the ASEAN Secretary General.

What next?

  • Critics in Myanmar underplayed the likely impact of the Jakarta agreement, with the key opposition leader, Dr Sasa, stressing that there would be no dialogue with the junta unless it agreed to the conditions put forward earlier, including the release of political prisoners.
  • ASEAN has created a rare pathway (i.e Jakarta summit) to help Myanmar move forward.
  • The opposition in Myanmar would need to internalise the utility of a helping hand extended by the region.
  • International reactions to the Jakarta summit outcome have largely been positive.
  • The UN and other global stakeholders appreciate Southeast Asia’s willingness to resolve its problems in its ‘family way’.

India’s opinion on Jakarta summit

  • As a neighbour with vital stakes, India welcomed the ASEAN initiative.
  • New Delhi should unreservedly back ASEAN’s endeavours, helping it blossom further by extending requisite support to Jakarta and other capitals.

Conclusion

  • Myanmar’s leaders should work for a lasting reconciliation, deriving inspiration from Lord Buddha’s ‘Middle Path’.
  • A nation often let down by its leaders, Myanmar deserves a better future.

 

 

Source: TH

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