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6:36pm 27/11/2023
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Indonesia’s last Myanmar initiative
By:The Jakarta Post / ANN
Members of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) walking past a military base after seizing it during clashes near Laukkaing township in northern Shan state. AFP

We call on President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to seize the opportunity of the worsening security situation on the border between Myanmar and China to try another diplomatic offensive on Myanmar by engaging outside powers, especially China, to find a peaceful solution to the crisis beleaguering that impoverished nation, where the threat of a civil war is looming.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi should immediately consult other foreign ministers, especially her ASEAN counterparts, to discuss measures to restore peace in Myanmar.

This is a rare opportunity to involve China, which is one of ASEAN’s most important dialogue partners anyway.

Indonesia should never hesitate to look for a new alternative.

For the past two years, ever since the military overthrew the democratically elected government of Myanmar, ASEAN has been persistent in resolving the security and humanitarian crisis, without involving outside powers.

Such rigidity can no longer stand, as it is evident that the problem has stretched beyond Myanmar and ASEAN.

In the joint statement issued after their summit in Jakarta in September, ASEAN leaders condemned the continuing acts of violence in Myanmar, which have inflicted a prolonged plight on the people, triggered a humanitarian crisis, destroyed public facilities and adversely impacted regional stability, particularly along the borders.

They decided to extend the temporary expulsion of Myanmar from any official meetings and functions of ASEAN until its military junta fully implements the Five-Point Consensus.

But relying on one single policy has produced no progress and it will remain so, unless ASEAN seeks other avenues.

President Jokowi still has one month left before Laos officially takes over ASEAN’s rotary chairmanship on Jan. 1, 2024.

Under Indonesia’s chairmanship, ASEAN has not achieved any meaningful progress in pushing Myanmar’s military to comply with the Five-Point Consensus.

Jokowi has a good rapport with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Engaging Beijing in helping Myanmar emerge from the crisis is not a naive consideration. China’s influence on Myanmar is overwhelming, regardless of who holds power there.

The Myanmar junta has been facing serious challenges from rebellious ethnic minorities that have launched armed resistance against the central government.

The developments in the last several months have reached a worrying level for China, which shares a border with Myanmar.

Video footage showing the Brotherhood Alliance rebel group besieging military bases in Shan state on the border with China was recently released by the rebels presumably to display to the world that they are gaining ground.

China was reportedly upset because the junta ignored Beijing’s warning about criminal activities along the border that target Chinese nationals.

As reported by Global Times, China has called on Myanmar to cooperate with China to maintain the stability of the border zone, effectively to protect the safety of Chinese citizens and property along the frontier, and strengthen security measures for Chinese personnel, institutions and projects in Myanmar.

On Monday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said that China had facilitated the evacuation of several countries’ citizens, including Thais, from northern Myanmar through China to avoid a conflict and will continue to maintain communication with relevant countries and provide assistance.

According to the spokesperson, since the conflict in northern Myanmar began: “China has been playing a constructive role in promoting peace and talks actively, urging the relevant parties to prioritize the interests of the people and to cease fire as soon as possible.”

A prolonged and escalating civil war in Myanmar is cause for concern for ASEAN as it will shut the door to peace efforts.

With military soldiers facing demoralisation, it is not too far-fetched to doubt the junta’s capacity to fight the rebels.

It is feared the military will carry on its tactics of mass killing, torture and rape to crack down on the opposition.

This must not happen. No matter how small the chance is, Indonesia should persuade ASEAN to involve outside powers to end the Myanmar people’s misery. China’s concern about its border security can be a starting point to open talks on Myanmar.

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