ASEAN is “deeply disappointed” by the limited progress made by Myanmar’s military rulers in implementing a peace agreement to end the conflict in the country, a communique issued by the bloc’s foreign ministers said yesterday.
The communique came as ASEAN chair Cambodia hosts a broader international gathering, including top diplomats from the US, China, Russia, Japan, the UK and Australia.
The gathering has been overshadowed by Chinese provocations in the Taiwan Strait.
Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) and Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov walked out of a plenary meeting when their Japanese counterpart spoke, a person who was in the room said.
Wang a day earlier canceled a meeting with Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs Yoshimasa Hayashi, with China citing displeasure over a G7 statement urging it to resolve tension over Taiwan peacefully.
Not mentioning the tensions in the Strait, the communique recommended that an ASEAN summit in November assess progress made by Myanmar’s junta, which took control over the country in February last year, in implementing a peace plan “to guide the decision on the next steps.”
“We extensively discussed the recent developments in Myanmar and expressed our concerns over the prolonged political crisis ... including the execution of four opposition activists,” the communique said.
Myanmar is an ASEAN member, but its generals, who have defended the last month’s executions as necessary, are barred from attending its meetings until progress in the ASEAN peace plan is demonstrated.
The five-point peace “consensus” calls for an end to violence, and includes all parties to engage in dialogue and for ASEAN to provide humanitarian assistance.
However, there has been little sign of the violence in Myanmar ending, with conflict spreading after the army crushed mostly peaceful protests in towns and cities.
At the start of the meeting, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said ASEAN would be forced to reconsider the peace plan if Myanmar’s rulers execute more prisoners.
A senior US Department of State official earlier this week said Washington was “looking what can be done to both sustain and increase the pressure” on the junta.
Some members of ASEAN, which has a tradition of noninterference in each other’s internal affairs, have been strident in their criticism of Myanmar.
Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs Saifuddin Abdullah said the junta has been frustrating everyone in ASEAN and making a mockery of the peace agreement, which should be inclusive of its opponents.
ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam
“I have to say that never before, not like this year, have we been confronted with so many perils at the same time,” Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs Prak Sokhonn said ahead of yesterday’s plenary session, citing the COVID-19 pandemic.
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