Singapore, Indonesia back Asean summit on Myanmar

Traditional Indonesian snacks from Ms Retno for the Singapore delegation at their Jakarta hotel. In a Facebook post yesterday, Dr Balakrishnan described the gift as a "welcome surprise". PHOTO: VIVIAN BALAKRISHNAN/FACEBOOK
Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi in Jakarta yesterday. On Myanmar, Dr Balakrishnan said both countries believed that national reconciliation needs to occur, and "can only occur if both sides actually sit down in good faith, negotiate and find a solution that works for Myanmar for the long term". PHOTO: REUTERS

The foreign ministers of Singapore and Indonesia yesterday backed convening a summit of Asean leaders on Myanmar, saying the region should arrive at a common stand on the crisis following the Feb 1 military coup.

At a joint media conference after their hour-long meeting in Jakarta, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the leaders' summit would be held "in the near future". The goal of an Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) community can be achieved only with the contribution of all member states, said Ms Retno.

"We share our concern on the current situation in Myanmar. We also share our position to call on the Myanmar military to stop the use of force and prevent further casualties. We also urge Myanmar to start a dialogue to put democracy, peace and stability back on track," she said.

Her Singaporean counterpart, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, expressed distress over the loss of human lives following security crackdowns in Myanmar, as well as the use of lethal arms on unarmed civilians.

He noted Singapore's position on Myanmar was "virtually identical" to Indonesia's.

Both countries, he said, believed that national reconciliation needs to occur, and "can only occur if both sides actually sit down in good faith, negotiate and find a solution that works for Myanmar for the long term".

While they recognised that there should be no foreign interference, Asean, of which Myanmar is a member, stands ready to help.

"Therefore, we also support our leaders getting together to generate a common position in which Asean can express its support for Myanmar," he said.

Dr Balakrishnan's two-day visit came after Indonesian President Joko Widodo on March 19 proposed a high-level meeting of Asean leaders to discuss the Myanmar situation.

Mr Widodo, or Jokowi as he is better known, had also urged that violence be halted and democracy, peace and stability be restored in Myanmar.

Earlier on March 2, Asean foreign ministers had attended a virtual meeting initiated by Ms Retno to discuss the crisis.

In a Facebook post earlier yesterday, Dr Balarishnan wrote that he will call on Mr Widodo "as well as other old friends" during the visit, adding: "Looking forward to seeing them in person."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2021, with the headline Singapore, Indonesia back Asean summit on Myanmar. Subscribe