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ASEAN must show unity to tackle Myanmar“s escalating crisis, Indonesia president says

2023-05-11T01:40:28Z

Indonesia President Joko Widodo delivers his speech during the 42nd ASEAN Summit in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia, May 10, 2023. Achmad Ibrahim/Pool via REUTERS

Myanmar’s ruling military has made no significant progress on implementing a peace plan agreed with ASEAN two years ago and the bloc must show unity in deciding how to address the escalating crisis, Indonesia’s president said on Thursday.

Joko Widodo, who is chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) this year, was speaking on day two of a leaders meeting in Labuan Bajo, where the “five-point consensus”, as the Myanmar peace plan is known, would be a key issue for discussion.

“I must speak candidly. On (the) implementation of the 5PC, there has not been significant progress,” he said. “Therefore, ASEAN unity is required to decide on the next steps.”

The president called on the 10-member body to chart a way forward to de-escalate spiraling violence in Myanmar since a coup two years ago, which triggered wave of dissent and a bloody crackdown by the military.

The army has been fighting on multiple fronts against ethnic minority rebels and militias in a growing, pro-democracy resistance movement. Indonesia has quietly been trying to engage all sides in the past few months.

Activists have condemned the military for use of air strikes and heavy weapons in civilian areas. The junta says it is fighting “terrorists”.

Myanmar’s junta has not been invited to ASEAN’s high-level meetings over its failure to implement the plan, which its top general agreed to in April 2021 in a meeting in Jakarta.

ASEAN secretary general Kao Kim Hourn told Reuters on the sidelines of the summit that the plan, which involves a cessation of violence, full humanitarian access and dialogue with all parties, will continue to serve at the foundation to engage the junta.

“We want to see a cessation of violence as soon as possible,” he said.

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