‘Dramatically changed’: ASEAN considers Myanmar crisis response

‘Dramatically changed’: ASEAN considers Myanmar crisis response

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has said it might reconsider a plan agreed with Myanmar to end the violence triggered by the military coup if the generals hang more political prisoners.

The 10-member group, which includes Myanmar, has been pushing for the country to implement the so-called Five-Point Consensus that was agreed upon last April and has criticised last week’s execution of four democracy activists.

ASEAN’s foreign ministers began their meeting in Phnom Penh having barred the military’s representative from the event.

“If more prisoners are executed, we will be forced to rethink … our role vis-a-vis ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus,” said Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who is the current chair of ASEAN, speaking at the start of the meeting.

More than 70 political prisoners in Myanmar have been sentenced to death, with at least two dozen more sentenced in absentia.

Hun Sen said ASEAN’s unity had been challenged by the political and security implications of the crisis in Myanmar, which has created an economic and humanitarian crisis.

Some 2,145 people have been killed since the military seized power in February 2021, detaining elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her government.

Hun Sen said while the Five-Point Consensus had “not advanced to everyone’s wishes”, there had been some progress, including in providing humanitarian aid.

But he went on to say the current situation had “changed dramatically” and could be seen as worse than before the peace agreement because of the execution of the activists by the military government.

ASEAN is meeting after coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, whose administration has faced international sanctions and isolation, reiterated that Myanmar was a member of ASEAN and would try to implement the consensus.

The army chief is due to welcome Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov later on Wednesday in the most high-profile visit to Naypyidaw since Hun Sen travelled to the country in January.

Citing a briefing by Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova, Russian news agency TASS said Lavrov was expected to hold talks with Min Aung Hlaing, as well as the military government’s Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, just two weeks after the army chief visited Moscow.

Rights groups have said the military has been using Russian-made planes to attack civilian targets, with United Nations Special Rapporteur Tom Andrews saying in February that Russia had supplied the military with drones, two types of fighter jets, and two kinds of armoured vehicles, one with air defence systems.

After visiting Myanmar, Lavrov will head to Cambodia for the ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi are also expected in Phnom Penh.

Ministers are expected to grapple with issues ranging from the Russia-Ukraine conflict to North Korea missile tests and regional security concerns.