Indonesia's Foreign Minister scraps plan to visit Myanmar

She instead meets Myanmar counterpart in Thailand to convey concerns over crisis

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi meeting her Myanmar counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin (right) at Don Mueang airport in Bangkok yesterday, with Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwina also present.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi meeting her Myanmar counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin (right) at Don Mueang airport in Bangkok yesterday, with Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwina also present.PHOTO: REUTERS

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has cancelled her planned visit to Myanmar which would have been the first known trip by a foreign envoy after the military seized power in a coup on Feb 1.

Instead, she met her military-appointed Myanmar counterpart in Thailand.

Speaking at a virtual press conference yesterday after returning to Jakarta from what she described as "shuttle diplomacy" to several countries in the region to find the best solution to the Myanmar issue, Ms Retno said: "Indonesia chooses not to be silent. To do nothing is not an option."

She said she had to postpone her plan to visit Naypyitaw, the Myanmar capital, to directly convey Indonesia's message and position and that of the world on the crisis in the country.

"This postponement did not dampen the intention to establish communication with all parties in Myanmar... including the Myanmar military and the CRPH," Ms Retno said, referring to the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw formed by ousted Myanmar lawmakers, whom the Indonesian minister said she had communicated intensively with.

Myanmar's military ousted the government formed by the National League for Democracy and arrested several of its leaders when it seized power on Feb 1.

The takeover sparked mass protests in the country.

Ms Retno confirmed that she had a brief meeting with Myanmar's military-appointed Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin at Don Mueang airport in Bangkok.

During the meeting, at which Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai was also present, Ms Retno said that she had consistently conveyed Indonesia's position and concerns over the development of the situation in Myanmar and the safety and well-being of its people.

"Therefore, we asked all parties to exercise restraint and not use force, and avoid casualties and bloodshed," she said.

Ms Retno said she had also reiterated the importance of an inclusive democratic transition process and called for a conducive environment in the form of "dialogue, reconciliation and trust building".

"Indonesia will be with the people of Myanmar," she said she told her counterpart, adding that she had also conveyed the same message to the CRPH.

Ms Retno said she also reiterated "loud and clear" to Mr Wunna Maung Lwin the importance of all Asean member countries respecting the principles contained in the Asean charter, as well as the importance of humanitarian access and visits to detainees.

The Indonesian minister has been rallying support in Asean for a special meeting on Myanmar, travelling to Brunei - the current chair of the regional bloc - and Singapore last week to exchange views on ongoing developments.

The Thai Foreign Ministry said that both Ms Retno and Mr Don, at a separate meeting in Bangkok, concurred that "Myanmar is an important member of the Asean family, and that Asean can be a platform for constructive dialogue between Myanmar and other member states".

Ms Retno told reporters yesterday that she had carried out "very intensive" consultations with various parties, including a number of Asean foreign ministers and the special envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General, and is scheduled to speak to several other officials in the coming days.

Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha also met Mr Wunna Maung Lwin yesterday.

Asked about the informal meeting, Mr Prayut told Thai media: "As friends we have to listen to each other… As we are both Asean members, cooperation is crucial. I hope to see peace and order."

Citing sources, Reuters on Monday reported that Indonesia was pushing its neighbours in South-east Asia to agree on an action plan over the Myanmar coup that would keep the junta to its promise of holding elections, with monitors to ensure that they are fair and inclusive.

Indonesia denied the reports on Tuesday amid protests in front of the Indonesian embassies in Yangon and Bangkok demanding support for Myanmar's November 2020 election results.

Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah told The Straits Times yesterday that Jakarta did not endorse a new election in Myanmar. He said: "We have made our national position clear early on after the military takeover of the government and we still stand by that position."

  • Additional reporting by Tan Hui Yee
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2021, with the headline 'Indonesia's Foreign Minister scraps plan to visit Myanmar'. Subscribe