Unrest in Myanmar is likely to dominate the agenda at the upcoming summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia.
Top diplomats from each of the 10-nation bloc known as ASEAN gathered in the resort town Tuesday to finalize the agenda of the leaders’ two-day summit that will begin Wednesday.
The leaders will likely focus attention on Myanmar, which has been in chaos since the military overthrew the democratically-elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.
The coup immediately triggered anti-junta demonstrations across Myanmar that have led to the deaths of more than 3,000 civilians and upwards of 18,000 arrests at the hands of the military, according to an independent monitoring group. The unrest has also evolved into a deadly rural conflict between the military and several ethnic rebel groups who have been fighting for decades for greater autonomy.
ASEAN has issued a five-point plan aimed at ending the violence that was reached by the bloc with Myanmar’s military rulers. But the junta has yet to follow through in implementing the plan, which has led to criticism of ASEAN as useless.
ASEAN’s founding charter established the group’s principles of consensus and non-interference into its members affairs. But it has barred Myanmar’s leaders from attending its summits due to its failure to implement the peace plan.
A convoy of vehicles carrying diplomats from ASEAN nations and delivering humanitarian aid to displaced residents in Myanmar’s eastern Shan state came under fire Sunday, prompting an angry response from Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who vowed the war would not deter efforts to seek a lasting peace.
A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said the violence is a result of “the regime’s violence and disregard for the rule of law.” The spokesperson called on Myanmar to implement in a meaningful way the Five-Point Consensus and respect the democratic aspirations of the people who have demonstrated they do not want to live another day under the military’s tyranny.”
The junta released a statement saying security forces will continue to undertake “appropriate counter-terrorism operations in accordance with the law” with the top priority “being the maintenance of law and order, community peace and stability.”
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters, Agence France-Presse.