Editorial: ASEAN can be more proactive in helping Myanmar ease the situation
Since the Myanmar military launched a coup d’état to seize power on February 1, local protests and bloody suppression by the military and police have intensified. There is no sign that the military and civilians are willing to take a step back, and the situation has continued to deteriorate. The United Nations Security Council issued a statement on March 10, strongly condemning the Myanmar military’s suppression of demonstrators, including women, young people, and children, and calling on the military to exercise restraint. The United States also announced additional sanctions, imposing economic sanctions on the two children of Min Anglai, commander-in-chief of the National Defense Forces, and the six companies they control. Secretary of State Blincoln warned that more sanctions will be imposed on Myanmar.
Since protests against the military regime broke out in various parts of Myanmar on February 4, more than 60 people have died in the military and police crackdown, and more than 1,800 people have been detained. At least two members of the National League for Democracy led by Aung San Shuzhi have been tortured to death by soldiers in prison. The former Burmese police who fled to India complained that some police officers ordered the police to shoot the demonstrators with submachine guns “until they were all dead.”
The situation in Myanmar is not optimistic. Judging from the increasingly escalating violent methods of the military and police, the military regime has a tough attitude and will not and cannot give in. The military regime has also stated that it is not afraid of international sanctions, claiming that Myanmar has survived international sanctions in the 1990s, and it can stand it now. The Burmese people who have experienced 10 years of democratization in the Internet age will not easily give up the flowers of democracy that have just bloomed. Therefore, it is foreseeable that the situation in Myanmar is likely to continue to deteriorate.
This is the most severe challenge ASEAN has faced since the Vietnam-Cambodia War in the 1970s. If it is not handled properly, ASEAN’s internal unity, regional affairs, and stable development capabilities will be weakened. ASEAN has always advocated the “ASEAN core” as the attractiveness of Asia-Pacific integration will be overshadowed. Once there is a crack in ASEAN, it will create more opportunities for extraterritorial forces to intervene.
The worst-case scenario is that the international community joins forces to overthrow the Burmese military regime. As our former Foreign Minister Yang Rongwen pointed out, if the international community does this, Myanmar may become the next Libya or Iraq, because Myanmar’s ethnic relations are complicated. Once the military loses its key role in stabilizing society, various tribal forces will take advantage of the situation. Armed separatist Burma. Myanmar’s involvement in civil strife or civil war is extremely detrimental to ASEAN, Myanmar’s neighboring countries, and the international community. However, considering that this has not happened in Myanmar in the past few decades, the possibility is not high.
In the Security Council statement adopted on March 10, due to opposition from China, Russia, India, and Vietnam, the statement drafted by the United Kingdom deleted the original “coup” and “take further action”. This shows that China and Myanmar’s neighboring countries are cautious about this crisis in Myanmar, and Western countries’ interests in Myanmar are not enough to allow them to impose intervention.
From this point of view, ASEAN is the most likely force to ease the situation in Myanmar. In fact, focusing on the geopolitical interests of ASEAN, this organization that is striving to build regional integration should be more proactive in assisting Myanmar.
Compared with the international community, ASEAN has richer experience in dealing with the Burmese military regime, such as the “constructive contact” with Myanmar in the 1990s; the military regime treats ASEAN as less resistant and suspicious of the international community. The conflict between the two parties in the political dispute in Myanmar is not good for the country; ASEAN should consider mediating from it, hoping to bring the conflicting parties to the negotiating table. ASEAN can use peer pressure to collectively put pressure on the military regime, requesting instructions on how to return the government to the people, re-election, and formulate measures to ensure that the military regime complies with the established timetable. At the same time, ASEAN must be psychologically prepared. If the military regime does not return power to the people in a year, what next steps must ASEAN take?
ASEAN must also continue to strive for the support of major extraterritorial powers including China, the United States, Japan, India, the European Union, and the United Nations to support its plan to ease the situation in Myanmar. This is also in line with the spirit of the “ASEAN core” and at the same time avoiding the use of the situation in Myanmar to affect ASEAN’s interests.
Of course, we can understand that ASEAN and its member states have their own considerations and face many difficulties in assisting Myanmar. Some member states of ASEAN are not entirely democracies. In particular, Myanmar’s immediate neighbors do not have the democratic moral authority to demand that Myanmar guarantee the democratic process. Some other countries have invested heavily in Myanmar over the years, but now their interests are tied up and they are now being held, hostage. Such difficulties have caused ASEAN to be reluctant to intervene too much in the situation in Myanmar. It is also one of the reasons why ASEAN has doubts about the international community’s comprehensive economic sanctions on Myanmar.
In any case, the unstable situation in Myanmar will tear ASEAN. ASEAN has taken the initiative to help Myanmar, which is conducive to peace and stability, and geopolitical interests in the region. We hope that ASEAN will unite with the international community to maintain communication and contact with all parties in Myanmar, and urge them to stop the conflict, step back, and ease the situation through negotiations.