By Tom Clark
July 18, 2021
This post is by contributor Tom Clark. Tom is an English teacher in Thailand and has lived there for over 20 years. He specializes in posts about Thailand, Myanmar, and gaming. He runs a podcast called “The Prisoner of Bangkok,” and runs the blog tomtardis.org.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed “deep concern” over the military coup in Myanmar and urged Southeast Asian nations to end violence and restore democracy.
Blinken made the appeal during a meeting with the foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Since the military took control of Myanmar in a coup on February 1, the ASEAN has led diplomatic efforts in the country.
At least 902 people have been killed in the ensuing crackdown, while tens of thousands have been displaced by clashes between security forces and newly formed armed groups in Myanmar.
The ASEAN diplomat urged the 10-nation bloc, which includes Myanmar, to move forward on the five points agreed to in April 2021 during a video conference with ASEAN diplomats.
ASEAN’s peace plan calls for an end to violence in Myanmar, the beginning of a dialogue between all parties, and greater access to humanitarian aid in conflict-affected areas.
Even though the military has shown no intention of implementing this plan, it has instead reiterated an entirely different plan to restore order and democracy in Myanmar.
ASEAN’s outspoken members, including Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, are frustrated with the lack of action, including Aung San Suu Kyi, who is also being held prisoner.
In a statement Wednesday, Blinken backed that demand and urged ASEAN to act together to free all those “unjustly detained” in Myanmar, and to appoint an envoy to start talks between Myanmar’s opposing sides.
Myanmar’s military-appointed foreign minister did not immediately respond to Blinken’s concerns.
Despite the highly controversial topics discussed, a Southeast Asian diplomat told the Associated Press that the two-hour meeting was “very civil.”
According to a diplomat who attended the meeting, ASEAN member states have provided Myanmar officials with names of potential envoys from Thailand and Indonesia, but no response has been received. Several ASEAN officials visited Myanmar last month and requested to meet Aung San Suu Kyi and other detainees.
U.S. President Joe Biden met with Blinken, amid concerns that Washington hasn’t been paying enough attention to a region crucial to its regional strategy to counter a more powerful China.
Blinken recently reiterated the United States’ commitment to ASEAN centrality, underlining ASEAN’s essential role in the Indo-Pacific regional order.
He also reiterated Washington’s rejection of China’s “unlawful maritime claims” in the South China Sea and said Washington “stands with Southeast Asian claimants in the face of (Chinese) coercion.”Follow WeTheCommoners Blog on WordPress.com