Malaysia contacts Myanmar shadow government as ASEAN fails to implement 5-point consensus — BenarNews
Malaysia’s top diplomat revealed he had contact with Myanmar’s shadow government, the first ASEAN country to acknowledge such interaction, as activists slammed the bloc on the anniversary of his failed five-point plan to restore democracy to Myanmar.
Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah was responding on Sunday to an open letter from a group of Southeast Asian parliamentarians to the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. In it, they urged the bloc to “immediately and publicly meet with the NUG” – Myanmar’s parallel National Unity Civilian Government.
“I met informally [through virtual conference] the Foreign Minister of NUG Myanmar and the Chairman of NUCC before the last retreat of ASEAN Foreign Ministers. Let’s meet and chat,” Saifuddin said via Twitter, referring to a ministerial retreat that took place in a hybrid format in mid-February after being postponed from an earlier scheduled date amid reports of differences between Member States.
Myanmar’s National Unity Advisory Council (NUCC) includes representatives of the NUG, civil society groups, ethnic armed organizations and civil disobedience groups.
In the tweet, Saifuddin tagged ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), the group that sent the open letter on Sunday, the anniversary of the day Southeast Asian leaders and the head of the Burmese junta, agreed at an emergency summit on a so-called Five-Point Consensus for Action on Myanmar after the coup.
Last October, the outspoken Malaysian foreign minister said he would open talks with the NUG if the Burmese junta continued to obstruct its cooperation with ASEAN conflict resolution efforts.
Radio Free Asia (RFA), the parent company of BenarNews, contacted the Foreign Ministry of Cambodia, ASEAN chair this year, for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
Meanwhile, Bo Hla Tint, the NUG’s special representative to ASEAN, questioned the Southeast Asian bloc’s seriousness in resolving the Myanmar crisis.
“They have failed to implement, over the past year, the fundamental point of the common ASEAN agreements – an end to violence. And then they did not respect the second point – the systematic distribution of humanitarian aid,” he told RFA.
“I would say that the ASEAN leadership does not take seriously the policy or the framework set by the ASEAN leadership itself, if the leadership does not take effective action [against the junta].”
“A five-point failure”
In Malaysia, two analysts praised Saifuddin for breaking with ASEAN and taking separate action.
“Malaysia takes initiative to review ASEAN’s approach to Myanmar (after a year of failed ASEAN Five-Point Consensus), acknowledging informal meetings with NUG Myanmar “, tweeted Bridget Welsh, political analyst at the University of Nottingham in Malaysia.
Another analyst, Aizat Khairi, a lecturer at the University of Kuala Lumpur, agreed.
“Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah’s reaction to APHR’s open letter is something refreshing,” he told BenarNews.
The five-point agreement reached between ASEAN leaders and Burmese military leader General Min Aung Hlaing on April 24 last year included an end to violence, the provision of humanitarian aid, the appointment of an ASEAN envoy, multi-stakeholder dialogue and mediation by the envoy.
ASEAN has failed to implement any of these points, said Joshua Kurlantzick, senior Southeast Asia fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a Washington think tank.
“I think there is no doubt that every part of [the consensus] failed, and with Cambodia as president and the junta increasingly backed by China, there is no way the consensus will succeed, or ASEAN will do anything serious about Myanmar” , Kurlantzick told BenarNews.
“Suspend Myanmar from ASEAN until democratic rule is restored. … But ASEAN will not.
He was referring to Beijing’s support for Naypyidaw in international forums, including the United Nations, since Min Aung Hlaing ousted the elected National League for Democracy (NLD) government on February 1, 2021.
Under ASEAN’s long-standing policy that its 10 members make all decisions collectively by consensus, if a member state objects to a proposed decision, it is set aside. And not all ASEAN members agree with tougher action against Myanmar other than barring junta officials from attending major ASEAN meetings, analysts noted.
A “five-point failure” is what the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar (SAC-M), a group of independent international experts, calls the ASEAN Consensus.
“The junta did not stick to a single point of the five-point consensus. The deal has failed and a change of course from ASEAN is needed,” SAC-M member Marzuki Darusman said in a statement on Friday.
In fact, since joining the consensus, Min Aung Hlaing has escalated the army’s attack on the people of Myanmar and continued to target and detain political opponents, SAC-M said. Nearly 1,800 people, mostly pro-democracy protesters, have been killed by Burmese security forces since the coup.
This aerial photo taken by a drone shows Bin village in Mingin, a township in Myanmar’s Sagaing region, after villagers said it was set on fire by the Burmese army, on February 3, 2022. [Reuters]
Human rights watchdog Amnesty International said the flow of arms to Myanmar’s security forces must stop.
“These activists urgently need the support of the international community in the form of a global arms embargo to prevent Myanmar’s military from using weapons of war to kill peaceful protesters,” Emerlynne Gil said on Friday. , Deputy Regional Director of Research at Amnesty International.
In addition, Human Rights Watch criticized Western governments, saying the five-point consensus had “become a pretext for governments like the UK, US, Australia and European Union member states to delay real action on the pretext of waiting for ASEAN leadership.
“The junta has exploited the international community’s deference to the regional bloc, which has long neglected its responsibility to protect the people of Southeast Asia under its principles of non-interference and consensus building,” HRW said. .
Pro-junta group: peace process ‘cannot be completely one-sided’
Supporters of the Burmese junta, however, said it was moving in the right direction.
“How much can the government compel in bargaining for peace? … The peace process cannot be completed by one side,” Thein Tun Oo, executive director of Thayningha Strategic Studies, a group of former military officers, told RFA.
“The government as well as the military declared unilateral ceasefires and made offers for peace talks. …we haven’t seen any satisfactory response from the EAO[EthnicArmedOrganizationsNowwehaveaquestion-whatdoestheinternationalcommunitysayaboutthis?[EthnicArmedOrganizationsNowwehaveaquestion–whatdoestheinternationalcommunitywanttosayaboutthat?”[organisationsethniquesarméesMaintenantnousavonsunequestion-queveutdirelacommunautéinternationaleàcesujet ? »[EthnicArmedOrganizationsNowwehaveaquestion–whatdoestheinternationalcommunitywanttosayaboutthat?”
But according to the ASEAN parliamentarians, the Burmese coup leader Min Aung Hlaing “has no intention of respecting the consensus unless he feels strong pressure to do so”.
“Given this failure, it is time for ASEAN to move on to sanctioning it. … ASEAN’s credibility depends on its ability to act in accordance with the reality of the situation in Myanmar,” APHR said in its statement. letter to ASEAN.
“The question… now is: are you going to allow the military to continue committing war crimes and crimes against humanity, and threatening human security and economic development in the region for another year?
Nisha David and Suganya Lingan in Kuala Lumpur, and Zin Mar Win of Radio Free Asia’s Myanmar service contributed to this report.