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ASEAN ministers urge more progress in Myanmar crisis

Myanmar junta warns ASEAN against peace plan ‘pressure’

October 29, 2022 00:00:00

Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn (third left), speaks as his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi, second right, listens during the special meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat in Jakarta, Indonesia on Thursday — AP

JAKARTA (Indonesia), Oct 28 (AP): Southeast Asian foreign ministers acknowledged on Thursday that their efforts to bring peace to Myanmar haven't succeeded and agreed to increase their determination to end violence in the country, where a military takeover last year set off a crisis that threatens to destabilize the region.

Recent events in Myanmar, including a military air strike on Sunday that reportedly killed as many as 80 members of the Kachin ethnic minority and the execution of political prisoners in July, have heightened worries among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

At a special meeting on Myanmar in Jakarta, Indonesia, ASEAN foreign ministers said their efforts haven't achieved significant progress and called for "concrete, practical and time-bound actions" to strengthen the implementation of a five-point consensus the group reached in April last year on ways to seek peace.

ASEAN, which includes Myanmar, has tried to play a peacemaking role since shortly after the country's military seized power in February last year, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The five-point consensus calls for the immediate cessation of violence, a dialogue among concerned parties, mediation by an ASEAN special envoy, provision of humanitarian aid and a visit to Myanmar by the special envoy to meet all concerned parties.

Myanmar's government initially agreed to the consensus but has made little effort to implement it, aside from seeking humanitarian aid and allowing ASEAN's envoy, Cambodian Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn, to visit. But it refused to allow him to meet with Suu Kyi, who was arrested and is being tried on a variety of charges that critics say are contrived to sideline her from politics.

In response, ASEAN has not allowed Myanmar's leaders to participate in its official meetings, though working-level officials have joined some.

"The meeting agreed that ASEAN should not be discouraged, but even more determined to help Myanmar to bring about a peaceful solution the soonest possible," Prak Sokhonn, who chaired the meeting, said in a statement.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the ministers expressed their concern and disappointment, and in some cases frustration, with the lack of significant progress in the implementation of the consensus.

An Arab News adds: Myanmar's junta has warned a regional bloc working to defuse its political crisis that setting a timeframe for a peace plan could lead to "negative implications."

Myanmar has been in chaos since a coup in February last year, with more than 2,300 killed in the military's brutal crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has led so far fruitless efforts to solve the bloody impasse.

The bloc's foreign ministers met in Jakarta on Thursday to discuss the crisis. The junta was not represented after it declined an invitation to send a non-political figure.

A peace plan agreed by Myanmar and ASEAN last year - which the former has largely ignored - was a "process," the junta's foreign affairs ministry said in a statement late Thursday.

"Inserting additional pressure by setting a timeframe will create more negative implications than positive ones." It also accused ASEAN of "discrimination" for not inviting the junta-appointed foreign minister to the Jakarta meeting.

ASEAN has said it is "gravely concerned" over escalating human rights abuses, including the execution of four prisoners in July.

Junta leader Min Aung Hlaing has not been invited to an ASEAN leaders' summit next month - for the second year in a row - and Myanmar's top diplomat Wunna Maung Lwin was excluded from ministerial talks in February and August.

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