Despite protests, ASEAN to engage military regime in Myanmar
As protesters gathered outside ASEAN embassies in Yangon to call on the regional grouping to reject cooperation with Myanmar’s military-installed government, Indonesia’s top diplomat defended the need to engage the regime which came to power in a coup on February 1.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi met with her Myanmar counterpart U Wunna Maung Lwin at Don Muang international airport yesterday in the presence of Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramadwinai in an effort to find a solution to the crisis in Myanmar.
Speaking to the media upon her return to Jakarta, Retno said Indonesia intended to keep communication lines open with all parties in Myanmar, including the Myanmar armed forces and the body that represents the country’s toppled elected legislators known as the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), according to the Jakarta Post.
“In these difficult conditions, communication with all parties must be carried out so that messages can be conveyed, contributions can be offered, the situation does not deteriorate and efforts to resolve it can be made,” she told reporters in a virtual press conference.
The Jakarta Post said during the meeting, Retno reiterated Indonesia’s concerns and called for all parties to exercise restraint and avoid the use of force to prevent casualties and bloodshed, while also pressing the junta representative on the importance of undertaking an inclusive transition to democracy.
She reminded the military-appointed minister that all ASEAN members including Myanmar must respect the principles enshrined in the ASEAN Charter and open humanitarian access and visits to the civilian detainees.
Shortly after news of the three-way meeting in Bangkok went out on Wednesday, protesters in Yangon gathered outside embassies of Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, which are all ASEAN member countries, calling them to reject any cooperation with the “illegitimate” military government.
The Irrawaddy reported that a larger crowd gathered at the Indonesian Embassy on Tuesday, holding placards saying: “Dictator never keeps promise. Stop negotiating with them” and “Meet our elected government”.
Among the crowd were women’s rights defenders. They gave the embassy officials an open letter on behalf of Myanmar’s women asking Jakarta to refuse to recognize the junta as a legitimate government.
During his short visit in Bangkok, Wunna Maung Lwin, who replaced Aung San Suu Kyi as foreign minister after the coup, also met with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Foreign Minister Retno stressed that it was important to carry out communication with all parties concerned in Myanmar.
She said that “to do nothing is not an option”, and that she had also communicated intensively with the CRPH.
“The safety and welfare of the people of Myanmar are the main things that must be protected. The wishes of the Myanmar people must be heard,” Retno said.
Indonesia has taken the lead on a regional response by ASEAN, which has been questioned by opponents of the coup government who fear that Jakarta might back the junta’s call for fresh elections.
After the meeting in Bangkok, the Thai Foreign Ministry said Thailand supported peace and stability in Myanmar.
Thai Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Tanee Sangrat said the meeting provided a good opportunity for Thailand to hear directly from Myanmar on the situation in the country.