Asean leaders gather in Jakarta with junta leader in bid to end Myanmar crisis

Foreign Ministers from South-east Asian nations during the working dinner in Jakarta, on April 23, 2021.
Foreign Ministers from South-east Asian nations during the working dinner in Jakarta, on April 23, 2021. PHOTO: SPECIAL ASEAN SUMMIT ON MYANMAR

SINGAPORE - Leaders of South-east Asian nations have gathered in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta in the first physical summit to try and bring an end to the violence and instability in Myanmar following the Feb 1 military coup.

The meeting, which will start at 2.30pm on Saturday (April 24) at the Asean Secretariat in Jakarta, will  include Myanmar's Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief who led the military takeover which deposed the democratically-elected civilian government and plunged Myanmar into a political and economic crisis.

All but three leaders of the 10-member Asean will attend the summit called for by Indonesian President Joko Widodo last month. The Philippines, Thailand and Laos will be represented by their foreign ministers.

On his arrival at the main Soekarno-Hatta International Airport, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong was greeted by Singapore Ambassador to Indonesia Anil Kumar Nayar and Indonesia's Head of State Protocol Andy Rachmianto.

Like other Asean leaders, he underwent PCR swab tests and other health screenings as part of Covid-19 health measures.

An Indonesian government video showed Gen Min Aung Hlaing, dressed in a dark suit, stepping off a Myanmar Airways International plane after it landed in Jakarta.

The meeting will be closely watched as the first coordinated international effort to ease the crisis, which has led to at least 739 people being killed and over 3,300 imprisoned following military crackdown on protesters, according to human rights organisation Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Friday the summit reflected the "deep concern about the situation in Myanmar and Asean's determination to help Myanmar get out of this delicate situation".

Asean, which takes decisions by consensus, has not officially condemned the coup even though individual member states such as Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia have denounced the violence.

Among initiatives being considered is for Asean to appoint a special envoy to Myanmar and for the bloc to provide humanitarian aid.

"We hope that tomorrow's (Saturday's summit) will reach an agreement regarding steps that are good for the people of Myanmar," Ms Retno said.

In a statement released on Friday, Dr Sasa, Minister for International Cooperation of the National Unity Government - formed of Myanmar’s ousted members of parliament and leaders of anti-coup protests and ethnic minorities - said: "On principle, the meetings that contribute to a solution to the deepening crisis in Myanmar are welcome; meetings that exclude the people of Myanmar but include murderer in chief Min Aung Hlaing... are unlikely to be helpful.

"The legitimate representatives of the people and country of Myanmar, the National Unity Government, stands ready to engage and attend any Asean meeting on Myanmar."


Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi (left) and Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.  PHOTO: SPECIAL ASEAN SUMMIT ON MYANMAR