Asean foreign ministers met on Wednesday August 3 in Phnom Penh (Cambodia), but without Burma, where they could harden their tone after the killing of political opponents by the increasingly isolated Burmese junta .
After the anger, the punishment? The execution of four prisoners sentenced to death, including two pro-democracy opposition figures, announced at the end of July, may mark a change in the approach of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN ) in Burma. The heads of diplomacy of the ten member countries, minus Burma, which was not invited, met in plenary session from 10:15 local time (03:15 GMT), in a luxury hotel in the capital. in Cambodia, on the banks of the Mekong.
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“I think we will see ASEAN having a hard time with Burma“, told AFP Aaron Connelly, Southeast Asia specialist at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. A working version of the joint statement, obtained by AFP, refers to “deep anxietyof ASEAN, calling on stakeholders to implementconcrete actionsagainst the military regime. Seeing the junta impose the death penalty for the first time in over thirty years was a “serious failure“Singapore’s head of diplomacy Vivian Balakrishnan responded.
No ‘real progress’
“This shows that the junta does not careof the five-point plan that he agreed with ASEAN in April 2021 to end the violence and facilitate the settlement of the crisis, wrote on Twitter his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah, who wants to suspend Burma from all meetings in organization. However, the country’s separation from Asean is off the table, assured a diplomatic source close to the negotiations.
The failure spread in the order of the block, especially since its mediation was of no consequence”real progress“, according to Malaysia’s head of diplomacy. Even worse, the situation in Burma is worsening. Since the February 1, 2021 coup that overthrew former civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyu, the junta has continued a bloody crackdown on its opponents has left more than 2,100 civilians dead and nearly 15,000 arrested, according to a local NGO.
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More executions of prisoners may follow, warn experts from the United Nations, who have counted more than a hundred death sentences in more than a year. ASEAN did not invite Burmese Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin to the meeting in Phnom Penh, and the isolation of the junta, whose atrocities are often condemned by the international community, may last until the next summit in November. Naypyidaw boycotted the October 2020 meeting where his leader was not invited.
“Even North Korea was invited (to Phnom Penh), but not the junta… This shows how remote Burma is, even within its own region.“, estimated by Aaron Connelly. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will travel to the Cambodian capital on Wednesday. His Russian counterparts Sergei Lavrov and Chinese Wang Yi are also expected.
The South China Sea sovereignty issues, which are largely claimed by Beijing, which could harm Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei or the Philippines, all ASEAN members, is another expected hot spot for discussions. The last time Cambodia, now with the rotating presidency of ASEAN, hosted a summit of the organization, in 2012, no agreement was reached on the subject, suggesting the division within the ‘instance .
“It was the first time ASEAN met without concluding a joint declaration, and it was a snub for Cambodia. Cambodia has learned its lesson“, Deciphered for AFP Thitinan Pongsudhirak, professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.
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