A meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers on Tuesday to discuss the coup in Myanmar failed to find a breakthrough to get the nation back on the path to democracy after last month’s military takeover, sources with knowledge of the meeting said.
Speaking after the virtual meeting, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi urged the junta to allow the bloc to resolve escalating tensions.
“It takes two to tango,” she said. “ASEAN’s good intentions and readiness will be meaningless if Myanmar does not open its door.”
ASEAN – which is made up of democracies, communist states, authoritarian regimes and an absolute monarchy – did not forge a common position during the meeting, two ASEAN diplomatic sources said.
A statement from the meeting’s chair, Brunei, on the outcome of the meeting, said ASEAN expressed concern about the situation in Myanmar and called on “all parties to refrain from instigating further violence”.
“We expressed ASEAN’s readiness to assist Myanmar in a positive, peaceful and constructive manner,” it said.
In a statement of remarks made during the summit, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan warned an inability to find a common ASEAN position “would starkly underscore our lack of unity, and undermine our credibility and relevance as an organisation”.
The use of lethal force against unarmed civilians was “inexcusable”, he said.
Retno, Balakrishnan and the foreign ministers of Malaysia and the Philippines called for the release of political detainees including civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a position that was not endorsed by all at the summit.
The “informal” meeting was the first involving the 10-nation group since the coup and included Myanmar’s military appointed foreign minister, Wunna Maung Lwin.
Retno, the foreign minister of the region’s most populous country and the world’s third-biggest democracy, has been leading ASEAN diplomacy efforts and hardened her language against the coup. Both the Singaporean and Malaysian foreign ministers noted that ASEAN had stood by Myanmar in the past when it was previously globally isolated under military rule.
Protesters in Myanmar marched in several cities Monday in defiance of a deadly crackdown on demonstrators Sunday.
Security forces fired tear gas and stun grenades Monday to disperse demonstrators in Yangon, a day after 18 people across Myanmar were killed and more than 30 others were injured in the deadliest day of demonstrations since the February 1 military coup, according to the United Nations Human Rights Office.
Local media, Voice of Myanmar (VOM), reported a list of fatalities since February 1st. The toll came to 23, with speculation that some of the deaths were omitted only because of lack of detail and accurate information.
The military seized power after claiming the election was riddled with fraud, despite independent monitors saying it reflected the will of the people.