ASEAN Leader Acknowledges No Progress Toward Ending Myanmar's Deadly Civil Strife

LABUAN BAJO (Indonesia) (AP).- Indonesian President Joko Widoso acknowledged somberly to other Southeast Asian leaders that no progress had been made in ending the civil strife that grips Myanmar. He renewed a call to stop the violence and a recent airstrike, which a rights group deemed an "apparent war crimes."

Widodo said to his fellow leaders of ASEAN on the last day of their two-day Summit in Labuan Bajo, an Indonesian port town. There has not been any significant progress made in the implementation the five-point agreement.

Widodo, ASEAN's Chairperson for this year, was referring a 2021 peace plan that the 10-nation group forged with Myanmar's top military leader. The plan called for a halt to violence immediately and a dialogue between the contending parties through an ASEAN Special Envoy.

ASEAN leaders excluded Myanmar's ruling military generals and their appointees to the bloc's summits after the country's military government refused to implement the plan. Generals protested ASEAN’s decision, saying it violated the group’s core policy of non-interference in other countries' domestic affairs and consensus decisions.

Widodo called on unity in a conference room at a hotel by the bay, but it was a futile effort as the chair designated for Myanmar's president was empty.

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The closed-door retreat, also known as a "retreat", is a place where leaders can discuss any controversial topic they wish. Widodo stated that the Myanmar crisis was the most important issue.

ASEAN, founded in 1967, is under pressure from the international community to take more aggressive steps to deal with the crisis in Myanmar. ASEAN members were divided on the issue, some advocating a easing of sanctions aimed at isolating Myanmar’s generals while others urged allowing Myanmar’s top diplomats and officials to return to attend summit meetings.

The Associated Press obtained an ASEAN internal report that quoted'some member countries' saying this at a meeting with the bloc's leading diplomats before the summit.

Anwar Ibrahim, the Malaysian prime minister, publicly expressed his frustrations. He said that 200,000 people fled to Malaysia from the turmoil in Myanmar.

Anwar said in a video posted to his Twitter account that 'ASEAN is not able solve most of the problems, especially those that are contentious'. We are stuck to the principle of nonintervention.

He said: 'Yes there is non-interference but we'll need a new perspective that will give us flexibility to navigate the future.

ASEAN leaders condemned the attack on a convoy of aid that their group arranged to help displaced people in Myanmar. They called for an end to violence immediately and demanded that the military government comply with a proposed peace plan.

Gunmen opened up on a convoy in Myanmar's eastern Shan State, which was delivering aid and carrying diplomats from Indonesia and Singapore. State-run TV MRTV reported that a security team in the convoy returned the fire, and a vehicle had been damaged. However, there were no injuries.

The top Myanmar general was excluded from the summit for the second consecutive year. In February 2021, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing was the leader of the army that seized power from Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government. This plunged the country into civil war and became ASEAN’s gravest crisis ever since its founding.

ASEAN reported that during the foreign ministers’ talks before the summit, it was suggested that the group should reengage Myanmar’s military-led State Administration Council, and ‘bring Myanmar back to ASEAN’s foreign ministers’ meetings and summits – noting that its time of isolation had served its purpose. The ASEAN report did not name the countries that were pushing for more leniency towards Myanmar, despite the international outrage over the continued military attacks.

The report stated that the suggestion to ASEAN for Myanmar to be brought back into their fold was "noted", implying that it didn't receive full approval by all ministers.

The report cited a comment that the Myanmar Crisis would not be resolved in the near future.

The report stated that ASEAN may be suffering from a "Myanmar fatigue" which could distract ASEAN's attention away from the larger goals of ASEAN's community-building. The report said that patience, flexibility and creative thinking are needed because there is no quick solution to the crisis.

Without going into detail, the report expressed concern about transnational crimes such as human trafficking, and drug production that originates from Myanmar. The report said that 'all parties are urged to stop the flow of weapons and funding into Myanmar which will lead to an escalation in the conflict'.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners keeps track of the deaths and arrests attributed to the repression carried out by the military regime.

Human Rights Watch cites witnesses who claim that in April, an airstrike by the military killed over 160 people, many of whom were children, at a ceremony held by opposition to army rule. The group described the attack on Tuesday as an 'apparent crime'

The summit's agenda included a number of issues relating to the South China Sea, including the territorial disputes that have been raging for decades between China, Brunei Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam as well as Taiwan.

Widodo, on behalf of ASEAN leaders will issue a communique after the summit to reiterate the call for self-restraint to avoid miscalculations or confrontations in the disputed South China Sea. They plan to repeat language from previous ASEAN declarations that criticized China's aggression but did not identify it.