The Straits Times says

Asean needs to be bolder on Myanmar

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What more can Asean do to resolve the Myanmar crisis after its foreign ministers' retreat last week ended with one more call to the junta that it keep to its promises under the Five Point Consensus, including de-escalating violence and launching talks with all parties? Asean's tone remains a plea because enforcement is not its strong suit, given the grouping's policy of non-interference. Yet expectations of Asean have grown. The annual State of South-east Asia survey released last week by the ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute revealed that Asean populations are only narrowly appreciative of Asean efforts at resolving the political and humanitarian crisis that has engulfed Myanmar since last year's coup replaced Ms Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government with a State Administration Council led by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

Asean's efforts have not produced a solution yet, but its approach speaks of a broader ambit of action. The 55-year-old grouping has kept faith with its cardinal principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of a member-state and its preferred consensual "Asean way" of decision-making but has made some notable departures. It withheld granting legitimacy to Myanmar's ruling junta and appears to have reined in attempts to allow it a platform unless it delivers on the five key expectations. Taken together with the unprecedented step of barring Gen Min Aung Hlaing from Asean leaders' summit last year and the insistence that only a non-political representative attend meetings, the actions are compatible with the aims in the Asean Charter of promoting democracy, good governance and fundamental freedoms across the grouping. Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines have been more proactive, exerting pressure in their individual capacities to seek unconditional release of Ms Suu Kyi and other detained leaders.

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