ASEAN diplomats convene to resurrect stalled Myanmar peace plan

Top Southeast Asian diplomats will on Monday review their regional bloc's stalled peace plan for Myanmar with frustration growing with its ruling military's failure to end violence.
A seat for Myanmar's delegate is seen empty during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, ahead of the leaders' meeting, in Jakarta, Indonesia, September 4, 2023.
A seat for Myanmar's delegate is seen empty during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting, ahead of the leaders' meeting, in Jakarta, Indonesia, September 4, 2023. Bay Ismoyo/Pool via REUTERS

JAKARTA (Reuters) - Top Southeast Asian diplomats will on Monday review their regional bloc's stalled peace plan for Myanmar with frustration growing with its ruling military's failure to end violence more than two years after it seized power in a coup.

Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are meeting in Jakarta, capital of chair Indonesia, this week to discuss Myanmar, a code of conduct for the South China Sea, the region's economy, transnational crime and other issues.

Myanmar is a member of ASEAN though its military rulers have been excluded from top bloc meetings since they ousted an elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi in 2021, triggering violent opposition to their rule.

ASEAN has agreed on a peace plan, known as its five-point consensus, that calls for an end to violence and dialogue among all parties but the generals have paid little more than lip service to it.

"As mandated by the leaders, we would conduct a comprehensive review on the 'five PC' implementation and prepare a recommendation for our leaders' deliberation," Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in opening remarks, referring to the five-point plan.

"ASEAN can only steam forward in full power if we can ensure a peaceful and lasting solution in Myanmar," she said.

The crisis in Myanmar has raised questions about the effectiveness and unity of a group founded at the height of the Cold War in the 1960s.

ASEAN has for decades operated under the principle of not interfering in each other's internal affairs and reaching agreement by consensus, but that has left it struggling to help resolve problems like Myanmar, unable to press the generals beyond barring them from its high-level meetings.

Indonesia, which has urged unity amid growing scepticism of the bloc's credibility, has been conducting behind-the-scenes efforts to find a solution to Myanmar's turmoil but has little to show for its effort.

ASEAN leaders are due to gather in Jakarta later in the week along with leaders and top from partner countries such as the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and others.

U.S. President Joe Biden will not be attending. Vice President Kamala Harris, the first Asian American vice president, will be taking his place.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang is due to attend.

(Reporting by Ananda Teresia in Jakarta; Writing by Kanupriya Kapoor; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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