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Constructive role stressed for Myanmar

Updated:2021-03-05 11:22:01   China Daily

ASEAN balance between engagement and noninterference garners praise

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations' balanced approach to the situation in Myanmar meets the principle of noninterference and is aimed at a peaceful resolution of the country's issues, experts say.

Yang Razali Kassim, senior fellow with the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said a statement from the 10-nation bloc is the latest manifestation of its policy of constructive engagement, which means a balance between noninterference and engagement.

"ASEAN's approach in dealing with Myanmar, or any troubled fellow member-state, has always been different from that of Western countries because of their different political cultures," Kassim told China Daily. "While the West would take a firm interventionist stance, ASEAN's position has always been more calculated, guided by the doctrine of noninterference."

In its statement on Tuesday, ASEAN said it is ready to assist Myanmar in a positive, peaceful and constructive manner.

"We expressed our concern on the situation in Myanmar and called on all parties to refrain from instigating further violence, and for all sides to exercise utmost restraint as well as flexibility," the regional organization said in a chair's statement on the Informal ASEAN Ministerial Meeting. "We also called on all parties concerned to seek a peaceful solution, through constructive dialogue and practical reconciliation in the interests of the people and their livelihood."

The statement also said the bloc has been closely following the developments in the region, and political stability in all the member states is essential to achieving a collective peaceful, stable and prosperous ASEAN community. "We underscored the need to maintain our unity, centrality, and relevance in the region and to collectively address common challenges," it said.

Chheang Vannarith, president of Asian Vision Institute, a think tank in Phnom Penh, said the ASEAN statement "reflects the collective political will to restore democracy, rule of law, and human rights in Myanmar".

"It is a diplomatic and political message to the military leaders in Myanmar," he told China Daily, noting it is important to put the interests and well-being of the people at the front and center of political reconciliation and nation building.

Kassim said the statement, despite the diplomatic wording, reflects ASEAN's growing concern over the worsening conflict in Myanmar. "In the past, such internal ASEAN discussions would be held behind closed doors."

Building trust

Kavi Chongkittavorn, senior fellow at the Institute of Security and International Studies in Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University, said ASEAN is facing its existential challenges and the group "has to work it out as one family".

"It is important to build trust among all parties concerned before any useful and fruitful (progress) can start," Kavi told China Daily.

Kavi said Thailand, which shares a 2,400-kilometer border with Myanmar, has a lot at stake in the stability of Myanmar, as it hosts more than 2 million workers from there.

Hosted by current ASEAN chair Brunei, the online informal meeting was the first gathering among ministers involving all 10 countries in the bloc, including Myanmar's Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin, after Myanmar's military takeover in February.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a daily news briefing on Monday that cooling down the situation in Myanmar is a top priority and also a consensus of the international community. "Any action by the international community should contribute to Myanmar's political and social stability and peaceful reconciliation, avoid escalating conflicts and further complicating the situation."

Wang said China is willing to continue to play a constructive role to ease up the situation on the ground in Myanmar.

Keywords:   Myanmar