Exclusive: Anwar calls for new ASEAN approaches to deal with Myanmar crisis

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has called on ASEAN to explore new approaches to resolving the ongoing crisis in Myanmar which, he said, can no longer be treated as the country’s internal affair because of its impact on the region.

He said the so-called “constructive engagement” being used by ASEAN has not produced any concrete results.

“Constructive engagement or the ASEAN way needs to be revised when it comes to Myanmar, because it doesn’t seem to be working,” he told Thai PBS World in an exclusive interview on Friday.

Anwar, who was on his two-day first visit to Bangkok since becoming prime minister, said the worsening crisis in Thailand’s neighbour cannot be considered purely as an internal affair for Myanmar.

“It’s affecting Malaysia, where we have as many as 200,000 refugees. It’s also affecting Thailand because of their common border,” Anwar said, referring to continuing flow of Rohingya out of Myanmar and fighting in Thai-Myanmar border areas.

Anwar, who became prime minister in late November and in the interview described himself as a “junior” among the ASEAN leaders, said the so-called “Five-Point Consensus”, adopted by ASEAN, has not been effective in finding a peaceful solution in Myanmar.

He described it as a “beginning” in easing tensions, but has failed to end the violence. “The Five-Point Consensus” is not something cast in stone. It’s a broad parameter that can be expanded,” he said.

He said there is a need for ASEAN to “discuss more viable ways” to help end the crisis.

Anwar also said he plans to hold talks with President Joko Widodo of Indonesia, who is the current ASEAN chairman, to exchange views on the current situation in Myanmar.

On the conflicts in southern Thailand, Anwar reiterated Malaysia’s commitment in helping the Thai government in the peace process.

While acknowledging many of the grievances aired by people in the border areas, Anwar voiced his strong objection to all forms of violence.

“There must not be a compromise on this,” he said.

Anwar also expressed confidence in Zulkifli Zainal Abidin, who was recently appointed as Malaysia’s facilitator in the peace dialogue between representatives of the Thai government and separatist groups.

The Malaysian prime minister said, as a former military chief, Zulkifli Zainal Abidin has a deep understanding of the situation in southern Thailand and good relations with his Thai counterparts.


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