The 54th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers’ virtual summit will conclude today.
Alongside facilitating discussions on current multilateral initiatives—such as advancing comprehensive COVID-19 recovery programs—the conference allowed ASEAN to rehash the organization’s approach to the crisis unfolding in Myanmar. Following the deposition of Myanmar’s democratically elected government by the military in February, the outbreak of mass protests, and their severe repression by Myanmar’s security services, ASEAN drafted its Five-Point Consensus for overcoming the current dilemma. However, the different approaches favored by ASEAN nations concerning managing Naypyidaw—with some states such as Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore more willing to call out abuses whereas others like Thailand and Viet Nam favor a more laissez-faire approach—may lead to prolonged tensions inter-ASEAN tensions in the medium-term.
Despite the appointment of Brunei’s second foreign minister—Erywan Yusof—as ASEAN special envoy for Myanmar, ASEAN will struggle to engender progress towards returning stability to Myanmar. While Yusof may secure the release of political prisoners, it is unlikely ASEAN diplomatic undertakings will entice Myanmar’s ruling junta to backpedal. The army’s recent announcement that elections would not be held until summer 2023 alongside its continued crackdowns indicate the military’s determination to maintain its grip on power.
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Sinan is an analyst for the Current Developments Team and a regular contributor to the Daily Brief. A student of transatlantic affairs, he specialises in political, economic and energy affairs of Europe and the Middle East.