ASEAN foreign ministers to push for tougher action on Myanmar

Myanmar will not be represented at an international gathering of foreign ministers in Cambodia this week, a spokesperson for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) chair said on Monday (Aug 1), after its military rulers declined a proposal to send a non-junta representative instead.

The 10-country bloc has since late last year barred the Myanmar junta from joining its meetings due to its lack of progress in implementing an ASEAN peace plan its generals agreed to after a coup in February 2021.

Malaysia is set to lead a push for tougher action on Myanmar when the regional bloc of foreign ministers meet this week, as anger mounts at the junta for stonewalling crisis resolution efforts.

ASEAN – which has spearheaded so far fruitless diplomatic efforts to restore peace – last week condemned the junta’s execution of four prisoners.

Myanmar has been in chaos since a putsch in February last year and the death toll from the military’s brutal crackdown on dissent has passed 2,100, according to a local monitoring group.

Ministers meeting in Phnom Penh from Wednesday are expected to lament the lack of progress on ASEAN’s “five-point consensus” plan, agreed to in April last year, which called for an immediate end to violence and dialogue between the junta and coup opponents.

As well as voicing “deep concern” about recent developments and calling for restraint, the ministers will also demand “concrete actions to effectively and fully implement the five-point consensus”, according to a draught communique obtained by AFP.

After more than a year of no progress on the plan, Malaysia will present a framework for its implementation, even as critics deride the ASEAN as a toothless talking shop.

“The key element of the framework is there must be an end-game. You have to have an end-game. What is the end-game of the five-point consensus?” Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah told AFP.