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Statement on Myanmar and ASEAN Summit

16 May Statement on Myanmar and ASEAN Summit

Responding to the attack on the ASEAN humanitarian assistance convoy on 7 May 2023, and the discussion on the situation in Myanmar at the 42nd ASEAN Summit on 9 to 11 May 2023:

1. The attack on the ASEAN convoy is criminal and reprehensible. This is especially as the convoy was undertaking to deliver humanitarian assistance, in accordance with the Five-Point Consensus agreed between ASEAN leaders and accepted by Senior General Min Aung Hlang in April 2021.

2. It is at present not known who is behind the attack. But the actions appear to be politically motivated and would point to elements within the country that do not accept the role of ASEAN. This points to a tragic truth: that unless all sides to the conflict within Myanmar are willing to consider an end to the violent confrontation, there are real limits to what ASEAN or any outside party can do to effectively assist stability and reconciliation within Myanmar.

3. Nevertheless, it is correct that ASEAN should remain committed to support efforts towards achieving the Five-Point Consensus. Even if the results depend primarily on the different sides within Myanmar, the test of ASEAN is to show unity, resolve and make efforts for processes to try to assist.

4. Indonesia, as the current ASEAN Chair, has committed to hold behind-the-scenes dialogues with all relevant parties. At the same time, for the ASEAN Summit, the military leaders from Myanmar were not invited for the second year in a row. The attack on the ASEAN convoy should be taken as reasons to carry on with these efforts and the Five-Point Consensus.

5. As and when ASEAN moves forward with the next humanitarian convoy, all parties within Myanmar including the Special Administrative Council and military must be held to guarantee safe conduct for those delivering and those receiving such humanitarian assistance.

6. From the ASEAN Summit, there were many other issues on the agenda that command attention as the region recovers from the pandemic and searches for paths for sustainable and inclusive growth amidst challenging global conditions. There are reasons to be optimistic about ASEAN as a whole, and to validate the group’s theme for 2023, for ASEAN to be an “Epicentrum of Growth”.

7. Myanmar remains a key issue for the regional and indeed global community and will require due attention and continuing efforts in this wider context. But it is important to see that this is not the sole issue on which ASEAN can be judged.


About the SIIA and Simon Tay

Simon Tay is chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, a globally ranked tank-tank and rated as the best independent think tank in Asia. The SIIA is a founder member of the ASEAN network of think tanks formed for track-2 work since the mid-1980s and formally recognized by ASEAN. The SIIA served as an advisor to the Thein Sein government during the country’s ASEAN chairmanship, assisted the NLD government on policies relating to foreign investment and also helped the then ASEAN Special Envoy convene closed-door discussions with think tanks and experts during the Brunei chairmanship. Simon Tay is also the author of Shadows Across the Golden Land: Myanmar’s Opening, Foreign Influence and Investment (World Scientific) published in October 2020.