Last Feb. 1, on the day of the convening of the newly elected parliament, the world was stunned as the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, seized power after the nation voted overwhelmingly for the return of Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League for Democracy in the November 2020 election.
Asean’s limits are well known, with the ideals of noninterference and decision-making by consensus limiting its ability to act.
When others cannot, Asean has the benefit of being willing and able to communicate directly with its member states.
The Asean member states have a wide variety of political structures, and Myanmar is not the only country in the region to have witnessed military coups. As a result, it’s maybe unsurprising that member countries’ reactions have been mixed.
Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore have all shared their deep concern and called for a peaceful solution.
The Values of the Asean Charter, including adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, and respect for and security of human rights, were recalled in Brunei’s statement as Chair of the Asean.
In order to have any hope of positively influencing events in Myanmar, Asean needs to talk with a common voice and sense of unity as the consequences and destabilizing effects of the rule of Tatmadaw will be felt throughout the country. Though we should be realistic about its influence, Asean also needs to seriously recognize that it is likely that failure to intervene in this crisis will reduce its international status.
Now is the time to step up if it wants to be seen as a regional power that prioritizes peace, stability, and development, and is fully committed to the Asean Charter’s values.
However, the regional bloc was able to negotiate with military officials, resulting in an unprecedented breakthrough, with Asean leading a tripartite humanitarian process alongside the Myanmar government and the UN.
The path to democracy in Myanmar has been long and arduous, and we must not allow it to end here. In the best interests of the entire population of the world, including all ethnic minorities, a peaceful solution has to be found.ASEAN has an opportunity to be part of the solution and should take advantage of this opportunity to promote meaningful dialogue, reconciliation and a return to democratic governance in line with the will of the people of Myanmar.