Contentious Myanmar should not affect ASEAN community building, says statement

Contentious Myanmar should not affect ASEAN community building, says statement
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BANGKOK (Oct 27): The ASEAN Chairman’s Statement of the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits on Tuesday (Oct 26) said the grouping viewed that Myanmar’s preoccupation with its internal problems should not affect ASEAN community building process and decision making.

The statement said the meeting also discussed the recent developments in Myanmar and expressed concern over the situation in the country, including reports of fatalities and violence.

“We also heard calls for the release of political detainees including foreigners. We called on Myanmar to fulfil its commitment to the Five-Point Consensus of the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting on April 24 and acceptance for the timely and complete implementation of the Five-Point Consensus,” it said.

However, no matter what, Myanmar remains a member of ASEAN family and it should be given both time and political space to deal with its many and complex challenges to return to normalcy.

“In this regard, we remain committed to support Myanmar in its efforts to return to normalcy in accordance with the will of the people of Myanmar,” it said.

The summits began on Monday without any representative from Myanmar after the bloc took a bold step to exclude junta chief Min Aung Hlaing, after the country failed to comply with ASEAN's 5-point consensus.

While respecting the principle of non-interference, the statement said the bloc reaffirmed its adherence to the rule of law, good governance, the principles of democracy and constitutional government as well as the need to strike an appropriate balance to the application of ASEAN principles on the situation in Myanmar.

“We agreed to reaffirm the decision reached by the Emergency ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (EAMM) on Oct 15,” the statement said referring to the EAMM where its was decided that the junta leader will be excluded and a non-political representative would be invited.

Since the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi was overthrown by Myanmar’s ruling military led by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on Feb 1, there had been internal unrest with nearly 1,000 civilians killed by security forces. The fatality figure is disputed by the junta. 

The chairman’s statement stated the bloc welcomed the efforts by the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar (Brunei's Second Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof) and called on all parties concerned in Myanmar to swiftly and fully implement the Five-Point Consensus.

“We welcomed the provision of humanitarian assistance to the people of Myanmar, through The ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre). We welcomed the continued support from our external partners for ASEAN’s efforts in the swift and complete implementation of the Five-Point Consensus,” it said.

ASEAN via AHA Centre raised the equivalent of almost US$ 8 million in monetary pledges and in-kind contributions of medicines, medical supplies and equipment.

The chairman statement stated that ASEAN reaffirmed its support for a more visible and enhanced role of ASEAN in supporting Myanmar by providing humanitarian assistance, facilitating the repatriation process, and promoting sustainable development in Rakhine.

“We stressed the importance of the voluntary return of displaced persons in a safe, secure, and dignified manner, in accordance with the bilateral agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh to facilitate the repatriation process.

“We further underscored the importance of efforts to address the root causes of the conflict in Rakhine State. We appreciated the efforts of the Secretary-General of ASEAN, supported by the Ad Hoc Support Team of the ASEAN Secretariat (AHAST), in leading the implementation of the recommendations of the Preliminary Needs Assessment (PNA) which has been making progress,” it said.