– ASEAN’s Roles and Five-Point Consensus –
On the 1st February 2022, we commemorated one year since the coup and people’s continuing resistance in Myanmar.
In January 2022, BEBESEA spoke with H.E Mr. Bo Hla-Tint, or U Bo, theNational Unity Government of Myanmars’ (NUG) Ambassador to ASEAN. The NUG was established on the 16th of April 2021 as a government in exile. Ambassador Bo is a prominent political figure, who co-founded the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB) on the Thai-Burma border in December 1990.
The full conversation is available on Voicesea Podcast. This article is part 3 of 4.
Responding to the attempted coup, ASEAN leaders reached the Five-point Consensus on how to tackle the political crisis of Myanmar at the ASEAN High-level Summit held in Indonesia on 24th of April 2021.
This Consensus calls for 1) the immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar; 2) constructive dialogue among all parties concerned to seek a peaceful solution in the interests of the people; 3) mediation to be facilitated by an envoy of ASEAN’s chair with the assistance of the secretary-general; 4) humanitarian assistance provided by ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Centre (AHA Centre); and 5) a visit by the special envoy and delegation to Myanmar to meet all parties concerned.
What is the NUG’s response to this consensus? In your observation, have there been any significant improvements after the Consensus was agreed?
As we are a member state of ASEAN, we always know that ASEAN has the consensus decision making policy – previously through only regime to regime, or government to government engagement. People were always left out from the consideration of ASEAN leadership in the past. So, we are very cautiously welcoming ASEAN’s initiative to help resolve the crisis we are facing today.
On the first point, they call for all parties, both sides, to stop the violence. From our point of view, ASEAN has to clearly request the military junta, who made the attempted coup against the democratically elected civilian government and detained all the civilian elected government leaders, to end the brutal crackdown nationwide – brutal military crackdown against peaceful protests. They are the ones who are creating the violent situation in the country. The ones whom they have to ask to stop violence is the military junta. The first point of the Five-point Consensus unfairly talks that both sides should stop the violence, and this indicates that the strategic vision of ASEAN is confusing.
We welcome conceptually – as a member state of ASEAN, we want ASEAN to be able to help resolve all crises people are facing in our country. The appointment of myself as the Ambassador to ASEAN is indicating the willingness, commitment and readiness of the NUG to work with the people of ASEAN as well as leadership of ASEAN. In principle, we are the ones willing to work with the ASEAN people and leadership to find peaceful solutions in our country.
On the second point, when they talk about the all parties meeting or talking to each other, they again fail to address the conducive condition or atmosphere to create a talkable situation or dialogue process. They have failed to call for unconditional release of politically arrested leaders like Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint and all other political prisoners. Without that (unconditional release of political prisoners), there will be no fruitful dialogue process. Again, in principle, we welcome the positive approaches of ASEAN leadership, but they have to be very practical. They also have to call for individual freedom of Myanmar people to express their wills peacefully, and freedom of association and freedom of press must be granted before the dialogue process they are calling for to happen.
We welcome the third point on mediation. However, when the new rotating chairman, (Cambodian Prime Minister) Mr. Hun Sen visited Myanmar, the military tried to blend the Five-point Road Map (of State Administration Council)* into the Five-point Consensus. In the joint statement, they clearly mentioned that by welcoming and accepting the implementation of the Five-point Consensus along with the Five-point Road Map. These two are totally different – the Five-point Road Map was not originally included in the Five-point Consensus of ASEAN, which is to facilitate the mediation process. To be able to facilitate, they must have a precondition set up strategically. Under these circumstances, ASEAN needs to have a very strategic framework set up by themselves so that the first two steps can be achieved first before mediation.
On the fourth point on humanitarian assistance – AHA Centre was created to handle natural disasters, not military conflict situations like in Myanmar today. That is why we are recommending that ASEAN leadership needs to be more practical and creative. We do not believe that the AHA Centre alone can handle the situations in Myanmar. We want the ASEAN, ASEAN Dialogue Partners and UN agencies to create an effective humanitarian assistance delivery mechanism. If ASEAN takes an initiative, everybody has to work with them, because ASEAN Dialogue Partners and the UN are pushing ASEAN into the decision making or focal role. ASEAN leadership needs to take the initiative to be able to set up a practically workable mechanism.
The final point is on the business of the special envoy or other leadership of ASEAN. The military violated the first point, the second, the third point and even rejected the previous point for the special envoy to be able to to meet with Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and do the work as he has been appointed and mandated for. The special envoy and all ASEAN leadership must be well prepared to achieve what they are intended to. What we want them to do is to prepare, with proper consultation within ASEAN leadership. The way new leadership or new chairmanship is now taking individual initiatives without proper consultations within ASEAN leadership as well as proper consultations with the NUG or CRPH will face very heavy blowback by the military junta. Why did they make a joint statement of his visit as “a success”? ASEAN leaders need to seriously consider how to maintain their credibility as well as the integrity of ASEAN people. It is a very crucial centrepiece of the ASEAN Five-point Consensus. They need more strategic, more practical and more consultative efforts, and that is why we are asking for us to be allowed to have a closer working relation with the ASEAN leadership.
For example, NUG has COVID-19 and other humanitarian assistance delivery mechanisms, working effectively through a cross-border system; Indian-Burma border or Thai-Burma border cross-border assistance. The international community or ASEAN community also have to work with us, not only relying on the military to agree to work with them. We have already established the most effective and transparent humanitarian cross-border assistance system with all the ethnic forces, NUG and civil society. They have to clearly check the existing system created by the NUG and other ethnic forces working together. It is also participated by civil society inside and outside of the country working together for the very crucial needs of humanitarian assistance and delivery, as there are more and more internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees flowing into Thailand and into India.
Under these circumstances, we want the ASEAN leadership to be more strategic and practical to approach, not only focusing on the junta, but the other side – and know how the NUG and ethnic organisations are reliable to work with. We are ready to answer any questions they might have and ready to work with them. If they are working only with the military, who blatantly and openly violated all points of the Five-point consensus, how can they reach their goals? This is the question we are asking back to them.
*Five-Point Road Map of State Administration Council is a road map that was announced by the State Administration Council, which is a military junta governing Myanmar since the coup.
The full conversation is available on Voicesea Podcast. This article will be followed by part 4 of 4, which further discusses international solidarity and roles of civil society.