Myanmar Junta Bans ASEAN Special Envoy from Meeting Suu Kyi

ASEAN foreign ministers (AMM) recently held a virtual meeting that specifically discussed the implementation of the five points of consensus produced by ASEAN leaders at the meeting in Jakarta at the end of last April.

During the meeting, the ASEAN Special Envoy for Myanmar as well as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Brunei Darussalam Erywan Yusof conveyed the development of the mandate to carry out the five points. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi explained this to reporters in a virtual press meeting on Monday (4/10).

“The special envoy (ASEAN for Myanmar) conveyed that there were challenges including the problem of visits and access to meet with all parties,” said Retno.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.

ASEAN Special Envoy for Myanmar Erywan Yusof has asked the Myanmar military junta to provide full access so that he can meet all warring parties, including state adviser Aung San Suu Kyi who is currently in prison, to find a way out of the conflict between military and civilian groups.

But the Myanmar junta refused to allow Erywan Yusof to meet Suu Kyi. The military regime in Myanmar only allows him to meet government officials and not opposition groups.

Suu Kyi, 76, is on trial on a number of charges ranging from illegal possession of radio communications equipment to treason.

If found guilty, Suu Kyi could face up to ten years in prison. Suu Kyi was detained after the Myanmar military staged a coup on February 1, 2021 for rejecting the National League for Democracy (NLD) party’s victory in November’s general election last year.

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi inspects the implementation of mass vaccination at a hospital in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, January 27, 2021.

Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi inspects the implementation of a mass vaccination at a hospital in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, January 27, 2021.

Retno added that the discussion on the implementation of the five points of consensus was very open, but it took a long time. Most ASEAN member countries expressed disappointment with the implementation of the five consensus points.

Some ASEAN member countries said that ASEAN should not be used to the stagnation of the implementation of the five consensus points.

During the AMM, Retno appreciated the special envoy’s efforts to encourage the implementation of the five consensus points.

Retno emphasized that there had been no significant developments in Myanmar since the ASEAN leaders’ meeting in Jakarta six months ago. Myanmar’s military junta, he added, did not respond positively to what the ASEAN special envoy had been trying to do. Therefore, it is time for ASEAN foreign ministers to report this situation to the nine ASEAN leaders for further direction.

International Law Expert: ASEAN Must Be Firm Against Myanmar

International law expert at the University of Indonesia Hikmahanto Juwana deeply regrets the decision by the Myanmar junta to bar the ASEAN Special Envoy for Myanmar Erywan Yusof from meeting Suu Kyi.

“Because this special envoy’s job is to find facts. When he is looking for facts and he acts independently, he should be able to meet not only government officials but also those who are “in conflict” with the government, namely the public who may be represented by certain figures or those who are members of non-governmental organizations, and of course the opposition,” said Hikmahanto.

UI Professor of International Law, Hikmahanto Juwana (screenshot).

UI Professor of International Law, Hikmahanto Juwana (screenshot).

Hikmahanto asked the ASEAN Special Envoy for Myanmar Erywan Yusof to immediately report to Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei as ASEAN Chair, so that later a special session will be held to discuss this issue with other ASEAN leaders, including the leader of the Myanmar junta.

If it is true that access is not granted, ASEAN countries must take a more firm stance against the Myanmar junta because what is at stake is the integrity of the ASEAN organization. The crackdown can take the form of sanctions ranging from economic sanctions, being prohibited from participating in ASEAN activities to deploying joint troops to Myanmar to protect the people of Myanmar.

If ASEAN is able to take a firm stance, Hikmahanto continued, ASEAN will be able to solve the problem of Myanmar and at the same time improve the image of ASEAN as a regional organization that is able to solve problems in the Southeast Asian region on its own. [fw/em]

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