Saturday, 10 June, 2023

Limited progress on Myanmar peace plan: Indonesia's Widodo

Limited progress on Myanmar peace plan: Indonesia's Widodo

Southeast Asian nations have made "no significant progress" on implementing a peace plan aimed at ending bloodshed in Myanmar, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said Thursday, on the final day of a summit.

Escalating violence in junta-ruled Myanmar has dominated the three-day meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regional bloc on the Indonesian island of Flores.

ASEAN, which has spearheaded diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, is under pressure to enact a five-point plan agreed upon with Myanmar two years ago after a military coup ousted Aung San Suu Kyi's government.

Thousands of people have been killed in the junta's bloody crackdown on dissent and armed groups opposed to its rule.

As leaders began the final day of talks in the fishing town of Labuan Bajo, Indonesian President Joko Widodo admitted they had made "no significant progress" on implementing the peace plan.

"We need the unity of ASEAN to chart our way forward," Widodo said through a translator.

The junta has spurned international criticism and refused to engage with its opponents, which include ousted lawmakers, anti-coup "People's Defence Forces" and armed ethnic minority groups.

An air strike on a village in a rebel stronghold last month that reportedly killed about 170 people sparked global condemnation and worsened the junta's isolation.

Jakarta's chairmanship of the bloc this year had raised hopes ASEAN could push for a peaceful solution, using its economic weight as well as its diplomatic experience.

But divisions within ASEAN have hampered those efforts. Diplomatic sources told AFP on Wednesday that some countries at the summit had suggested inviting back the junta to high-level meetings.

Myanmar still belongs to the 10-member ASEAN bloc but has been barred from its summits due to the junta's failure to implement the peace plan.

ASEAN is seen by critics as a toothless talking shop, but its charter principles of consensus and non-interference have hamstrung its ability to stop the violence in Myanmar.

The latest draft of the end-of-summit statement seen by AFP has left the paragraph on Myanmar open, reflecting diplomatic difficulties over the issue.

A review of the charter was "long overdue", said Lina Alexandra of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta.