ASEAN foreign ministers seek de-escalation of Myanmar crisis

Kyodo News

Posted at Mar 02 2021 07:08 PM | Updated as of Mar 02 2021 11:46 PM

Demonstrators hold placards with the image of Aung San Suu Kyi during a protest against the military coup, in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, February 17, 2021. Reuters/Stringer

JAKARTA/SINGAPORE (UPDATE)- Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations called Tuesday for de-escalation of the post-coup political crisis in Myanmar and for dialogue among all parties concerned in search of a peaceful solution, while suggesting a bigger role for ASEAN.

An ASEAN chair's statement issued after their online meeting said the ministers "expressed our concern on the situation in Myanmar and called on all parties to refrain from instigating further violence, and for all sides to exercise utmost restraint as well as flexibility."

They also called on all parties concerned "to seek a peaceful solution, through constructive dialogue, and practical reconciliation in the interests of the people and their livelihood."

"In this regard, we expressed ASEAN's readiness to assist Myanmar in a positive, peaceful and constructive manner," the statement said.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, who had pressed for the special meeting held via videoconferencing, told reporters afterward, "ASEAN met to discuss and seek solutions, but it takes two to tango."

"The wish and goodwill of ASEAN to help will be unable to be carried out if Myanmar doesn't open its doors to ASEAN," she said.

"Internal communications and dialogues among stakeholders in Myanmar will surely always become the best option, but Indonesia believes that ASEAN also stands ready to facilitate such dialogues when requested."

In his intervention at the meeting, Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein asked Myanmar to consider proposed visits to the country by the ASEAN secretary general and a representative of Brunei, which holds the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN this year, with them being given access to all parties involved.

Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan proposed that U.N. secretary general's special envoy on Myanmar Christine Schraner Burgener also be allowed to visit as soon as possible to meet all key stakeholders, including ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi who he said should be released from detention.

"The immediate priority must be to step back from a rapidly deteriorating situation. It is not too late," Balakrishnan said.

He called on the Myanmar military authorities "to publicly commit, in words and in deeds today, to exercise utmost restraint, and to desist from the use of lethal force, and to steadfastly ensure that there is no further violence and bloodshed."

The Indonesian and Malaysian foreign ministers similarly all urged that the security forces refrain from violence against civilians and that all political detainees be released.

Hishamuddin said ASEAN will continue engaging with its international partners collectively, or through the establishment of an ASEAN Troika, on the situation in Myanmar, while Balakrishnan urged ASEAN's external partners "not to impose broad-based economic sanctions that will harm the ordinary people of Myanmar."

All the 10 ASEAN foreign ministers attended the meeting including Myanmar's military-appointed Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin.

ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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