Yearender: Myanmar Dominated ASEAN Agenda In 2021

The Myanmar crisis continued to dominate the ASEAN agenda in 2021, with world leaders and the international community hoping to see the 10-member bloc making better progress in 2022 concerning the Five-Point Consensus reached on April 24.

It is understood that ASEAN has not been able to make inroads in implementing the Five-Point Consensus to seek reconciliation and restore peace in Myanmar, with the junta continuing with violence against its own people.

The five point consensus are; end the violence, hold constructive talks among all stakeholders, ASEAN provides aid to Myanmar, a special ASEAN envoy appointed to conduct talks, and the envoy allowed to visit the country.

The insufficient progress in the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus by the junta resulted in them being snubbed from the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits held late October.

However, there was some kind of consensus reached as to who was to represent Myanmar at the ASEAN-China Special Summit on Nov 22 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of ASEAN-China Dialogue Relations, though the chosen representative never showed up.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah was reported as saying that Myanmar’s ambassador to Beijing was initially invited to represent the country to attend the summit, adding that “even though there was an empty chair on Myanmar side (at the summit), but at least there was some kind of consensus (reached) as to who will represent Myanmar”.

Myanmar has been going through upheaval since Feb 1 when armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing ousted an elected government led by democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi with more than 1,000 people reported killed in the following unrest.

United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken who was at Malaysia for an official visit from Dec 14-15, in a joint press conference with Saifuddin pointed out that the crisis in Myanmar has continued to worsen since the military coup.

Outlining the various actions taken to exert pressure on Myanmar’s junta to change course, Blinken said it would be very important to look at additional steps and measures that could be taken individually and collectively to pressure Myanmar back onto a democratic trajectory.

“ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, of which Myanmar is a member) has a Five-Point Consensus plan, that the junta agreed and signed on to, and that plan needs to be implemented.

“And we are looking to see whether the junta makes good on the commitments made over the Five-Point Consensus,” Blinken was reported as saying.

Come 2022, ASEAN needs to make some progress on Myanmar episode. With the coup nearing its first anniversary, expectations are high for 2022 ASEAN chair, Cambodia to deliver on the Five-Point Consensus.

Whatmore, world leaders and the international community are closely watching on how the new Chair’s efforts will lead to a different result, though it is improbable to expect that the junta will suddenly have a change of heart and take concrete steps to implement the Five-Point Consensus.

Cambodian Prime minister Hun Sen was reported to have said that Cambodia will push to engage directly with Myanmar’s military government during its upcoming chairmanship of the ASEAN.

He said as chair of ASEAN for 2022, Cambodia’s approach to Myanmar will set the tone for the bloc’s efforts to address the spiraling political and humanitarian crisis that has ravaged the country since the military’s February coup.

Source: NAM News Network