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Thursday, February 22, 2024

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ASEAN Meet Over Myanmar’s Violence, South China Sea

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As Myanmar is reeling under a bloody political crisis, officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) visited Indonesia on Tuesday to address the crisis there and put an end to the conflict of interests between some nations in the region with China in the South China Sea.

The organization’s most challenging matter forced its foreign ministers to meet to save its image amidst doubts over its unity and credibility. One of them, and the most significant, is an effective peace plan of ASEAN, demanding a quick end to violence, for Myanmar. The peace plan was also approved by the country’s military rulers since they took over the helm in a coup in 2021.

A June report by the United Nations said that the military’s action since its acquiring the power led to killing of over 3,400 people and arresting of 22,000. Its High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk urged the UN Security Council (UNSC) to handover the matter to the International Criminal Court (ICC), and the countries to stop sending arms to the junta.

The ASEAN decision to bar Myanmar’s junta leaders from attending high-level meetings reflects the concern and condemnation of the international community towards the situation in Myanmar. As the current chair of ASEAN, Indonesia has been actively engaged in diplomatic efforts to address the crisis, including discussions with both the junta leaders and opposition groups.’

Indeed, the process of creating an inclusive dialogue in Myanmar has faced challenges due to the conditions set forth by all sides involved. The complexities arise from the diverse perspectives and demands of the junta leaders, opposition groups, and other stakeholders. Regarding these efforts, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said, “As long as the approach that the parties take is a zero-sum approach, durable peace will never be achieved.”

Indonesia aims to achieve progress in talks on code of conduct on the South China Sea which have been long pending, through ASEAN’s meeting in Jakarta. These negotiations would further the commitment made in 2022 by the bloc and China to make a norm ensuring navigational freedom and flying over the strategic waterway.

The strategic South China Sea facilitates a trade of $3 trillion every year, with China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei claiming their authority of the waters leading to conflicts.

Apart from the meeting, the South East Asian organization will conduct East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum this week. These are expected to be attended by Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

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