Foreign Policy Watch: India-ASEAN

Why is ASEAN holding a special meeting on Myanmar?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: ASEAN

Mains level: Military coup in Myanmar


Foreign ministers from member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are meeting to discuss an intensifying crisis in Myanmar, 18 months after agreeing a peace plan with its military rulers.

What is ASEAN?

  • ASEAN is a political and economic union of 10 member states in Southeast Asia.
  • It brings together ten Southeast Asian states – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – into one organisation.
  • It was established on 8th August 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration by the founding fathers of the countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, and the Philippines.
  • The preceding organisation was the Association of Southeast Asia (ASA) comprising of Thailand, the Philippines, and Malaysia.
  • Five other nations joined the ASEAN in subsequent years making the current membership to ten countries.

Why is the meeting happening?

  • ASEAN’s peace effort is the only official diplomatic process in play.
  • There has been a failure with the junta unwilling to implement a so-called “five-point consensus” that it agreed to with ASEAN in April 2021.
  • The United Nations has backed the ASEAN plan, but with suspicion the generals are paying lip service and buying time to consolidate power and crush opponents before a 2023 election.
  • For ASEAN to remain credible as a mediator, it may need to present a new strategy before the summit.

What is the consensus?

  • The agreement includes-
  1. Immediate end of hostilities
  2. All parties engaging in constructive dialogue
  3. Allowing an ASEAN envoy to mediate and meet all stakeholders, and
  4. ASEAN to provide humanitarian assistance.
  • So far, the only success cited by ASEAN chair Cambodia has been allowing some humanitarian access, but that has been limited and conditional.

How has the Junta (Military govt. in Myanmar) responded?

  • The military government has accused critical ASEAN members of meddling and warned them not to engage.
  • It has accused its opponents of trying to sabotage the ASEAN plan and has justified military offensives as necessary to secure the country and enable political talks.
  • Instead of advocating for the five-point ASEAN plan, the generals have instead been pushing a five-step roadmap of their own towards a new election, with few similarities.


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