ASEAN must be more proactive to contribute to Myanmar's return to normalcy — Hishammuddin

Malaysia's Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein

Malaysia's Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein

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KUALA LUMPUR (March 1): The Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must play a more proactive role to contribute to Myanmar’s return to normalcy, Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said.

He said it is crucial that ASEAN leads a sincere discussion and constructively engage with Myanmar and all stakeholders to show that the regional grouping is effective as a cohesive regional grouping in addressing the expectations of its external partners, and in avoiding unnecessary unilateral responses that may affect the region unfavourably.

“Two-way engagements are therefore pivotal in this regard,” he said in a statement issued following an official visit to Brunei Darussalam,  where he had an audience with Sultan of Brunei, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, at Istana Nurul Iman, and several meetings with Brunei's Foreign Minister II Datuk Seri Setia Awang Erywan Mohd Yusof in Bandar Seri Begawan, today.

In expressing Malaysia’s serious concern on the military takeover in Myanmar and the development that ensued, Hishammuddin said the military takeover is a setback to all efforts made over the last decade towards achieving inclusive democratic transition, unity, and economic progress in the country.

“We encourage the Myanmar authorities to uphold and respect democratic institutions and processes, the rule of law, human rights, and fundamental freedoms, including the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

“All relevant parties must exercise utmost restraint from the use of violence that could affect the safety of members of the public and further escalate the situation in the country.

Hishammuddin also pledged Malaysia’s support towards the convening of an Informal ASEAN Ministers’ Meeting this week to discuss this matter further.

Myanmar's military launched a coup on the morning of Feb 1, hours before the Parliament was set to sit, and had detained State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and other senior members of the National League for Democracy (NLD).

The junta had also declared a one-year emergency and vowed to "take action" against alleged voter fraud during the November 8 general election, which the NLD party won. 

On Feb 5, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) had jointly called for ASEAN to convene a special meeting to discuss the political situation in Myanmar, following the military coup.

The leaders had made the call after a meeting in Jakarta in conjunction with Muhyiddin's official visit to Indonesia.

Hishammuddin also said he congratulated Brunei Darussalam on its Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2021, as well as the successful convening of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat recently.

He said Malaysia is committed to working closely with Brunei Darussalam in realising its Chairmanship deliverables, advancing ASEAN Community Building, and recovering together from Covid-19.

“We stand ready to collaborate with Brunei Darussalam, particularly on initiatives related to multilateralism, mental health, and the promotion of youth, peace, and security,” he said.