Asean should suspend Myanmar's membership: The Jakarta Post

The paper says the Myanmar general's failure to fulfill the consensus agreed upon with Asean leaders in April is demonstration of disrespect to the regional grouping.

The noninterference principle of Asean in dealing with the Myanmar crisis should be reviewed, says the writer.
The noninterference principle of Asean in dealing with the Myanmar crisis should be reviewed, says the writer.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The foreign ministers of Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines have set a historic precedent for the 10-member Asean with their firm refusal to allow Myanmar's junta leader Min Aung Hlaing to attend this week's virtual Asean summit, and proceeding to hold separate meetings with their dialogue partners, including the United States, China, Japan and Australia.

The Myanmar general's failure to fulfill the five-point consensus he agreed upon with Asean leaders in April is demonstration of disrespect to the regional grouping, so he deserves such punishment.

We call on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to demonstrate greater assertiveness toward Myanmar.

The noninterference principle of Asean in dealing with the Myanmar crisis should be reviewed, because it is against the Asean Charter itself.

Myanmar's junta has killed, arrested, jailed and tortured thousands of innocent civilians.

President Jokowi should have enough courage to tell other leaders that as long as the junta fails to completely abide by the agreement with Asean, the country will be barred from all the grouping's activities.

In his meeting with Asean leaders in Jakarta on April 24, General Aung Hlaing agreed to the immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar; constructive dialogue among all parties concerned to seek a peaceful solution in the interests of the people; mediation to be facilitated by an envoy of Asean's chair, with the assistance of the secretary-general; humanitarian assistance provided by Asean and a visit by the special envoy and delegation to Myanmar to meet all parties concerned, including Aung San Suu Kyi.

None of the five-point consensus has been implemented.

As Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said, the Myanmar problem not only has local and national impacts but also has impacts on the other nine members of Asean.

"We cannot use the principle of noninterference as a shield to avoid issues being addressed," he said in a recent statement, as quoted by Reuters.

This is actually the second time Asean has breached the noninterference taboo.

In 2008, Asean forced the Myanmar military junta to open the country to enable Asean and other international organisations to bring in humanitarian assistance for victims of Cyclone Nargis.

Indonesia can pioneer this approach by inviting the National Unity Government of Myanmar for bilateral talks with Indonesia, because Suu Kyi has recognised the government in exile as her official representatives.

Brunei will end its rotary chairmanship this month, and Cambodia will take over the position.

Knowing the track record of Prime Minister Hun Sen, it is very likely that Cambodia will maintain the approach of Brunei, which has made too many concessions to Myanmar's military junta.

General Aung Hlaing, who appointed himself as Myanmar's prime minister in August after toppling the democratically elected civilian government of Suu Kyi, should not be allowed to participate in any Asean meeting.

This boycott should also apply to other officials of the junta.

Myanmar will remain a member of Asean, but its leaders should know they must follow all Asean rules.

Until now Suu Kyi is still under military detention, as she experienced for years before.

Indonesia and the three other Asean countries should step up pressure on the abusive Myanmar generals.

And the remaining Asean members, who are supportive of the Myanmar junta, should know they cannot use the consensus in decision-making processes to prevent sanctions against the junta.

  • The Jakarta Post is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 23 news media organisations.