Myanmar, multilateralism and the limits of Asean's diplomacy

The harsh reality is that there is no appropriate diplomatic tool that can resolve the situation in Myanmar. Asean should take care not to take on actions that are not in its interests or are beyond its capabilities.

Protesters rallying against the military coup on July 14, 2021, in Yangon. PHOTO: AFP

In ancient times, many cultures believed that certain words had magical properties; that merely uttering those words could evoke and unleash powerful forces. In our time, in certain circles, the word "Asean" has been invested with something of those magical qualities.

Those who had practised, or are still practising, the craft of diplomacy in South-east Asia, know that the reality is far more prosaic. Asean is just one sub-genre of regional diplomacy and regional organisations like Asean are just one instrument in this generic category of diplomatic tools which we call "multilateralism".

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