What was India's dispute with Myanmar

ASEAN at odds after coup in Myanmar

The February 1 coup by the generals in Myanmar was soon followed by nationwide protests and a large-scale campaign of civil disobedience. The military cracked down on the demonstrators with great severity. So far as of March 26, according to official figures 164, according to the "Assistance Association for Political Prisoners" (AAPP), more than 300 demonstrators have been killed. There is no end to the crisis in sight, which poses a number of problems for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

First, the diplomatic weight of the alliance is at stake. It would be a severe blow to the importance of ASEAN if, for example, the US were to cancel its participation in the next East Asia Summit or ASEAN summit because it is not ready to sit at the table with the generals of Myanmar.

The number of protesters killed has now exceeded 300

Second, the alliance's reputation is suffering. The images of nationwide mass demonstrations against the military regime, of killed and mistreated demonstrators go around the world. That rubs off on ASEAN, which is said anyway not to take its own human rights charter seriously.

Appeal to the responsibility of ASEAN

Third, a collapse of Myanmar, which is by no means ruled out, would jeopardize the stability of the region. Refugees are already coming to India and Thailand. After the last violent crackdown on the protests in 1988, 360,000 fled to Bangladesh, China, India, Malaysia and above all Thailand, according to a report by the "International Commission of Jurists". In an opinion piece for the "Bangkok Post", the former Thai Foreign Minister Kasit Pirmoya warned of a "refugee crisis" and a destabilization of the border region.

So far there has been criticism from the Muslim ASEAN countries Indonesia (President Widodo, l) and Malaysia (Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, r)

Kasit Primoya continues: "ASEAN has not only the right but also a responsibility to act decisively and take concrete action to ensure that Myanmar's generals end the violence, reverse their coup, and respect the will of the people." allow democracy to rule Myanmar. "

Shared reactions to the coup

In contrast to the clear appeal of the former foreign minister, the government in Thailand, which itself came to power in a coup in 2014, has so far remained covered and describes the coup as an internal affair of Myanmar. So far Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines have been doing the same. The first two are authoritarian regimes themselves, and Philippine President Duterte has declared war on democracy in his country.

Sultan's Palace of Brunei: Possible site of an ASEAN initiative on Myanmar

Indonesia's President Joko Widodo and Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin took a position a week ago and brought the calling of a special meeting of the heads of state and government of ASEAN near Brunei, which currently holds the ASEAN chairmanship, into play. Joko Widodo said: "Dialogue and reconciliation must start immediately in order to restore democracy, peace and stability in Myanmar".

Break with ASEAN tradition

"This is a pretty strong statement, especially when you consider the usual quiet and meddling-avoidance attitude of ASEAN," Deasy Simandjuntak of the ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore told the Malaysian daily "The Straits Times". Since it was founded in 1967, ASEAN has practiced non-public and consensus-oriented diplomacy.

With this approach, ASEAN succeeded in opening Myanmar to international aid in 2008 after the devastating hurricane "Nargis", in which around 100,000 people were killed. It was also ASEAN that accepted Myanmar into the confederation in 1997, despite international pressure, and thus contributed to the later opening of the country.

The public criticism of Myanmar and the call for a summit, which is primarily about a domestic political crisis in a member state, are a novelty for ASEAN. Myanmar is certainly not taken with the fact that it is now at the center of criticism, while Thailand largely got off scot-free after the 2014 coup.

The army will also have registered that the initiative for the special summit came from the Muslim countries of ASEAN, which have already expressed criticism of the expulsion of the Rohingya. This makes a dialogue with the generals in Buddhist Myanmar difficult, who had told the UN: "We are used to sanctions and we survived ... We have to learn to have few friends by our side."

No success without unity in the alliance

So the questions are whether, firstly, it will be possible to create the necessary unity within ASEAN so that the generals cannot avoid a dialogue with their critics within ASEAN, and, secondly, whether the approach that is confrontational for ASEAN conditions would be more promising than that silent diplomacy of the past. Both questions are related.

Regarding the first question, an unnamed ASEAN diplomat told the international Japanese daily "Asian Nikkei Review" with little optimism: "(ASEAN) is like a flawed Rubik's cube, with which it is impossible to assign all colors on one side unite. " The disagreement between ASEAN, in turn, reduces the chances of success of the confrontational approach.