The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) issued a statement calling for an end to the violence in Myanmar and immediate mediation between all parties. It said nothing about the overthrow of a popularly-elected government, the arrest of its elected leaders, the detention and torture of thousands of civilians, and the deliberate gunning down of protesters in the streets.
The ASEAN nations are ruled mostly by autocrats or dictators. The organization is made up of representatives from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Needless to say, those resisting the military in Myanmar are bitterly disappointed.
“Whether it is ASEAN or the U.N., they will only speak from outside saying don’t fight but negotiate and solve the issues. But that doesn’t reflect Myanmar’s ground situation,” said Khin Sandar from a protest group called the General Strikes Collaboration Committee.
According to a statement from ASEAN chair Brunei, a consensus was reached in Jakarta on five points – ending violence, a constructive dialogue among all parties, a special ASEAN envoy to facilitate the dialogue, acceptance of aid and a visit by the envoy to Myanmar.
The five-point consensus did not mention political prisoners, although the chairman’s statement said the meeting “heard calls” for their release.
That “consensus” is about what you’d expect from a group of leaders one step beyond a junta.
The official statement released Saturday by ASEAN leaders makes five demands of the military junta, including an “immediate cessation” of the violence and a peaceful solution to the situation via “constructive dialogue,” mediated by a special envoy appointed by ASEAN. The leaders also demanded that Myanmar’s military government allow the arrival of humanitarian assistance.
The military’s leader, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who was in attendance, did not make a public statement. The summit was his first trip outside Myanmar since the coup.
The invitation to General Aung Hlaing was heavily criticized. There were calls for Interpol to arrest him upon his arrival at the meeting location in Jakarta, but that was never going to happen. It would have been considered “impolite.”
“ASEAN’s statement is a slap on the face of the people who have been abused, killed and terrorised by the military,” said a Facebook user called Mawchi Tun. “We do not need your help with that mindset and approach.”
Aaron Htwe, another Facebook user, wrote: “Who will pay the price for the over 700 innocent lives?”
The ASEAN leaders don’t want to make too big a deal of Myanmar slaughters because they may have to answer for the blood on their own hands someday.
It was too much to expect a ringing condemnation of the killing of 700 mostly unarmed protesters. But instead of trying to blame both sides for the violence, maybe the ASEAN leaders could have pointed out who fired the first shot.