Cambodian leader Hun Sen called for unity Sunday, telling a gathering including Russia, China and the United States that current global tensions have been taking a toll on everyone. The prime minister, whose country holds the rotating chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, said at the opening of the East Asia Summit that it was in the world’s common interest to cooperate to solve differences peacefully. The comments come as regional tensions remain high between the United States and China over Taiwan and Beijing’s growing regional aspirations, and while the Russia invasion of Ukraine has disrupted global supply chains, causing rising energy and food prices far beyond Europe. Without singling out any nation by name, Hun Sen said he hoped leaders would embrace a “spirit of togetherness in upholding open and inclusive multilateralism, pragmatism and mutual respect in addressing the existential and strategic challenges we all face.” “Many current challenges and tensions have been hindering our past hard-earned efforts to promote sustainable development and causing greater hardship to people’s lives,” he said as he opened the meeting, which is running in parallel to the ASEAN group’s main summit. Read: Putin won’t be at G20 summit, avoiding possible confrontation with US Participants included U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang, and it comes just a day before the highly anticipated meeting between Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit in Bali. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was also taking part in the meetings, which also included the leaders of Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan and others. On Saturday, Biden promised that the U.S. would work with ASEAN, telling leaders of the strategically vital coalition that “we’re going to build a better future that we all want to see” in the region where U.S. rival China is also working to expand its influence. He promised to collaborate to build a region that is “free and open, stable and prosperous, resilient and secure.” “I look forward to continuing our work together with ASEAN and with each one of you to deepen peace and prosperity throughout the region to resolve challenges from the South China Sea to Myanmar and to find innovative solutions to shared challenges,” Biden said, citing climate and health security among areas of collaboration. Read: Myanmar tops Asian summit’s agenda as global issues loom Li Keqiang, meantime, told a meeting of ASEAN, China, Japan and South Korea that amid a “turbulent” global security situation, “unilateralism and protectionism are surging, economic and financial risks are rising, and global development is confronted with unprecedented challenges.” As major economies in East Asia, Li said the group needed to “stay committed to promoting peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region and beyond, and to improving the people’s wellbeing.”
Southeast Asian foreign ministers acknowledged 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. Read more: ‘Without accountability, political transition in Myanmar won’t fix Rohingya issue’ 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. “Instead of progressing, the situation was even said to be deteriorating and worsening,” she said. “The acts of violence once again must stop immediately,” Marsudi said. “Without a cessation of violence, there will be no conducive conditions for the resolution of this political crisis.” Read more: Locals in dread as firing inside Myanmar rocks Naikhongchhari A statement issued late Thursday night by Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry said it “will not be bound by the outcomes of the meeting” because it was held by the other nine ASEAN countries without Myanmar’s attendance. It insisted that Myanmar’s military government has been implementing the five-point roadmap by cooperating with ASEAN’s special envoy, holding peace talks with ethnic rebel groups and providing humanitarian assistance. Thursday’s meeting came ahead of ASEAN’s annual summit on Nov. 11-13, where a top focus of the leaders will be the Myanmar crisis, which has threatened the group’s unity. ASEAN members traditionally avoid criticizing each other, and the violence unleashed by Myanmar’s military is widely seen as exposing the group’s powerlessness in dealing with a geopolitical and humanitarian emergency that could affect all of them. Growing numbers of refugees are fleeing Myanmar and seeking asylum throughout the region. The U.S.-based group Human Rights Watch said an estimated 70,000 have fled to neighboring countries since the military took power and urged Southeast Asian leaders to ensure their governments don’t force people back to Myanmar. “Rather than protecting asylum seekers from the junta’s violence and persecution, regional actors are forcing Myanmar refugees and other nationals back into harm’s way,” said Shayna Bauchner, a researcher for the group. Malaysian authorities reportedly have accelerated deportations to Myanmar, returning over 2,000 people since April without allowing the United Nations refugee agency to assess their asylum claims, while Thai authorities have pushed asylum seekers back across the Myanmar border without verifying their protection needs, Human Rights Watch said. ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) envoys stationed in Dhaka have said they will relay Bangladesh's concerns over the situation along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border to their capitals. Acting Foreign Secretary Rear Admiral Md Khorshed Alam (retired) briefed the heads of missions from the southeast Asian countries in Dhaka Monday and informed them about the current situation in the bordering areas of Bangladesh and Myanmar. The acting foreign secretary conveyed the deep concerns of Bangladesh about the recent incidents as mortar shells from Myanmar fell and exploded inside Bangladesh territory. Also, there were indiscriminate aerial firings, human fatalities and serious injuries, and damage to the properties and livelihood of the people in the bordering areas with Myanmar. Director General (South East Asia wing) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) Md Najmul Huda was also present. However, no diplomat from Myanmar was there at the briefing but diplomats from other ASEAN countries – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – were present. MoFA is likely to brief the other foreign diplomats stationed in Dhaka Tuesday to highlight recent incidents, including Myanmar's repeated space and land violations. On Sunday, Myanmar Ambassador to Bangladesh Aung Kyaw Moe "acknowledged" the firing of multiple mortar shells into Bangladesh territory, but tried to deflect blame by asserting the insurgents they are engaged in the fighting were firing heavy artillery and mortars, some of which landed inside Bangladesh. Bangladesh urged Myanmar to refrain from activities that inflict damage to the lives and livelihoods of people, noting that the ongoing situation is creating an atmosphere of "fear' among the innocent people living in the bordering areas with Myanmar. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday summoned the Myanmar envoy for the fourth time since August and lodged a strong protest against the incidents of shelling from Myanmar. Also read: Myanmar envoy gets another earful at MOFA; tries to blame insurgents
ASEAN Dhaka Committee (ADC) on Monday celebrated the 55th anniversary of the founding of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia. Foreign Minister Dr AK Momen joined the event as the chief guest by delivering a pre-recorded video speech. Read:Dhaka, Beijing to work with patience to achieve dev goals: Momen
Efforts by Myanmar’s neighbors to help restore peace and normalcy to the strife-torn Southeast Asian nation were hindered by the country’s recent executions of four political activists, Cambodia’s foreign minister said Saturday. Prak Sokhonn, speaking in his capacity as special envoy to Myanmar of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, warned that further executions would force the regional grouping to reconsider how it engages with fellow member Myanmar. Cambodia is the current chair of the regional grouping, and Myanmar is not welcome to send members of its ruling military government to ASEAN meetings because of its failure to cooperate with a plan agreed upon last year to work toward restoring peace. Myanmar’s military rulers initially agreed to the plan, a five-point consensus, but have since made little effort to implement it. The country has slipped into a situation that some U.N. experts have characterized as a civil war. Prak Sokhonn was speaking at a news conference after a weeklong meeting in Cambodia of ASEAN foreign ministers. The meeting’s final communique, issued Friday, included a section criticizing Myanmar for its lack of progress in ending violence there, but with weaker language than several countries had hoped for. On Saturday, he described the executions of Myanmar dissidents as a “setback” to his mediation efforts and said the nine ASEAN members aside from Myanmar had “agreed to see how things will evolve in the coming weeks and months.” Read: Wang Yi’s visit to "elevate" ties with Dhaka to a new level: Beijing He said “if more executions are conducted, then things will have to be reconsidered,” which suggested that ASEAN is prepared to downgrade its engagement with Myanmar’s military government. ASEAN has been criticized by some of its own members as well as other countries for doing too little to pressure Myanmar to implement the five-point consensus. Myanmar’s army in February last year ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi and then violently cracked down on widespread protests against its actions. After security forces unleashed lethal force against peaceful demonstrators, some opponents of military rule took up arms. Myanmar’s foreign ministry issued a statement Friday saying it objected to a reference in the ASEAN joint statement to a “lack of progress” in implementing the five-point consensus because “it neglects Myanmar’s efforts on its implementation.” It also said that the four men recently executed were not punished because they were political activists but because they were “found guilty of masterminding, inciting, supporting, arming and committing terrorist activities which caused tremendous loss of innocent lives.” Prak Sokhonn said progress has been made on providing humanitarian aid to Myanmar, but not on the other main points in ASEAN’s plan: stopping the violence and opening up a political dialogue among all the country’s contending parties. “The only will I see now is to continue to fight,” he said. “Why? Because of the lack of trust and the execution of the activists, whether it is legal or illegal.”
Bangladesh has sought more coordinated and proactive support from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for persuading Myanmar to create a congenial situation for an early, safe and dignified repatriation of its more than 1.1 million nationals from the country. Bangladesh also sought the support of Brunei Darussalam in expediting its bid to be a sectoral dialogue partner (SDP) of ASEAN. A courtesy meeting was held between Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and Second Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brunei Haji Erywan bin Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Haji Mohd Yusof in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday. They discussed the issues of mutual interest, reasserting their commitment to further strengthening their excellent bilateral ties. Read: Bangladesh seeks EU’s role for early repatriation of Rohingyas The two countries agreed to accelerate cooperation in trade, investment, agriculture, aquaculture, fisheries, energy, health, pharmaceuticals, connectivity, ICT, tourism, halal trade, human resources development, youth and cultural exchanges. While discussing the need for high-level visits to further cement the bilateral relations, Yusof expressed their keenness on arranging a Bangladesh visit for the sultan of Brunei which got postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic. Momen welcomed the proposal and both ministers agreed to take all necessary preparations. The Bangladesh foreign minister is now on a three-day visit to Cambodia to attend the 29th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) ministerial meeting.
Bangladesh has sought Vietnam’s support in favour of Bangladesh’s candidacy as a sectoral dialogue partner of ASEAN. Bangladesh also invited Vietnam to invest in the economic zones in priority areas including agriculture and ICT sectors. Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen met Foreign Minister of Vietnam Bui Thanh Son on Thursday afternoon on the sidelines of the ASEAN Regional Forum in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and discussed the issues. Also read: Bangladesh seeks enhanced trade, investment cooperation with Timor-Leste He requested Vietnam to exert its friendly influence on Myanmar to take its citizens back to Myanmar, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Momen also suggested the regular exchange of more technical expertise to boost trade, commerce and investment further. Also read: Chinese FM’s visit: Dhaka, Beijing likely to sign multiple cooperation documents
As the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meet in Phnom Penh this week, they should take the opportunity to reach an agreement on strong and coordinated measures to put pressure on Myanmar’s military junta, parliamentarians from the region have urged. Over fifteen months after ASEAN members and the chief of the military junta, General Min Aung Hlaing, signed a Five-Point Consensus to address the political and humanitarian crisis triggered by the illegal coup d’état on 1 February 2021, the situation in Myanmar has continued to deteriorate. The self-styled State Administration Council (SAC) is still hijacking humanitarian assistance, has not taken steps towards initiating a political dialogue, and continues waging a brutal campaign of repression against the population at large in order to stamp out widespread opposition to military rule. “ASEAN member states must recognize that the Myanmar military has become a criminal organisation that is holding hostage the whole of the country’s population,” said Eva Sundari, former member of the House of Representatives in Indonesia and Board Member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR). Read: Myanmar violence, Ukraine war loom over ASEAN meetings ASEAN’s Foreign Ministers are meeting less than two weeks after the Junta executed four political prisoners sentenced to death, Phyo Zeya Thaw, former lawmaker for the National League for Democracy (NLD); the prominent activist Kyaw Min Yu, widely known as ‘Ko Jimmy’; Aung Thura Zaw; and Hla Myo Aung. Those are the first known judicial executions in Myanmar since 1988, according to Amnesty International, and were carried out secretly, after trials conducted by military tribunals without any respect for due process, as APHR has denounced. The junta went on with the executions despite international pleas not to carry them out. Even Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of Cambodia, and current ASEAN Chair, made a plea for the prisoners to be spared, despite the leniency that his government has shown towards the junta this year. As ASEAN Chair, Cambodia has undone a great deal of the work that other member states had been doing to isolate the Myanmar generals, thus granting them legitimacy they do not deserve. “After those barbaric executions, Cambodia should stop pandering to the generals, and ASEAN foreign ministers should make their meeting in Phnom Penh a turning point to lift the Myanmar people out of their suffering. The junta believes it can get away with its crimes and ignore the international condemnation because up to now it has not led to any concrete consequences,” said Sundari. ASEAN should put in place enforcement mechanisms in order for the Five Point Consensus to work. Starting with imposing targeted sanctions and travel bans in the region on Min Aung Hlaing and his men. The regional group should also publicly engage and recognize the National Unity Government of Myanmar (NUG), which is leading the pro-democracy forces and represents the Myanmar people’s aspirations for democracy, as well as ethnic organisations.
Bangladesh has sought a proactive support of Indonesia and of the ASEAN for an early repatriation of the stranded Myanmar nationals from Bangladesh to Myanmar. Bangladesh and Indonesia held bilateral meeting in Jakarta on Monday and discussed the issue. Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Indonesia Retno Marsudi led the respective delegation in the discussions. The meeting reviewed the whole gamut of the existing excellent bilateral relations and both sides renewed their commitment for further strengthening it. The two foreign ministers exchanged felicitations on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two countries. The two countries agreed to accelerate cooperation in the areas of trade, investment, agriculture, food, energy, health and pharmaceuticals, connectivity, ICT, tourism, halal trade, human resources development, defence, youth and cultural exchanges, etc. They expressed optimism that the MoUs in the pipeline would be concluded soon. Read: Rohingya Repatriation: Dhaka seeks proactive role from Indonesia, ASEAN
Parliamentarians from Southeast Asia are urging the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair to Myanmar, the Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Prak Sokhonn, to meet representatives of the National Unity Government (NUG) of Myanmar, after his recent trip to the country. During the trip he met Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other members of the military junta that continues to try to rule the country after its illegal coup d’état of February last year. Formed by MPs elected before the military takeover and widely respected leaders from civil society and the ethnic minorities, the NUG was established in April 2022 to oppose the self-styled State Administration Council (SAC) led by Min Aung Hlaing. The NUG is supported by the vast majority of the Myanmar people. “Most Myanmar citizens see the NUG as their legitimate government, and that is how the international community at large, and ASEAN in particular, should regard it. If Mr. Sokhonn is serious about implementing ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus, he should publicly engage the NUG, rather than limit himself to meet the leaders of an illegal junta that is committing all kinds of international crimes and throwing the country into chaos while attempting to cement its power,” said Tom Villarin, former MP from the Philippines and Board Member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) on Monday. Read: Crisis in Myanmar taking an enormous toll on children: UN committee warns The Five-Point Consensus on Myanmar was signed on 24 April 2021 by all ASEAN leaders and Min Aung Hlaing. The Consensus prescribes the delivery of humanitarian aid, and calls for an immediate cessation of violence, as well as the commencement of a dialogue process between all the parties involved in the conflict, to be facilitated by the ASEAN Special Envoy appointed by the group’s rotatory Chair. Since Cambodia assumed the chairmanship of ASEAN this year, its leaders have met Min Aung Hlaing and other representatives of the SAC on several occasions, including a visit by the Prime Minister, Hun Sen, to Myanmar in January; but has never met with any member of the NUG, most of whom are in hiding or exiled. As Chair of ASEAN this year, Cambodia should hold conversations with the democratic leaders of Myanmar, by inviting them to meet outside Myanmar or online if necessary, given the challenges involved in meeting them in their own country, APHR said. The SAC has utterly failed to implement any of the five points included in the consensus and the situation has steadily deteriorated in Myanmar. With at least 2,088 people killed by the junta; over 11,000 political prisoners, a record number in Myanmar’s history; and over one million internally displaced people in the country, Min Aung Hlaing and his men are responsible for “systematic and widespread human rights violations and abuses” that may amount to “war crimes and crimes against humanity,” according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “We at APHR have repeatedly called on ASEAN to hold Min Aung Hlaing and his criminal junta accountable for their crimes and for not abiding to the Consensus they signed to. The military is the main source of Myanmar’s woes and instability, and ASEAN member states should not accept its illegal rule as a fait accompli. Instead, they should engage and support the NUG and Myanmar’s civil society if they truly want to put the country back on the path towards democracy and prevent it from becoming a failed state at their doorstep,” said Villarin.