MANILA and Singapore, breaking with ASEAN’s tradition of non-interference, attacked Myanmar’s military rulers after pro-democracy leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to four years in prison.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., who has always been open about his support for Suu Kyi, issued what may be his most scathing rebuke since the junta staged the February 2021 coup that overthrown and democratically detained Suu Kyi.
This, as Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said due to the new verdict on Suu Kyi, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) should continue to oust the Burmese junta leader, General Min Aung Hlaing, in their future summit meetings.
” I condemn [the] State Councilor Aung San Suu Kyi sentenced to four years in prison. The military regime is using the justice system to silence political opponents and crush the National League for Democracy,” Locsin said in a statement to media on Sunday.
On Monday, a court in Myanmar found Suu Kyi guilty of three counts, including possession of unlicensed walkie-talkies and violating anti-coronavirus borders. Last month, she was also convicted of “incitement” and breaching Covid-19 protocols. Combined, these two verdicts earned the 76-year-old leader six years in prison.
The Nobel Peace Prize laureate also faces multiple counts of bribery – each carrying up to 15 years in prison – and violation of the Official Secrets Act. Along with Myanmar President Win Myint and 15 other officials, she has also been accused of alleged voter fraud in the 2020 election, which her party, the National League for Democracy, won landslide.
Echoing Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt’s statement, Locsin said that almost a year had passed since the military coup and yet “the situation has deteriorated sharply in all areas of the society”.
“I am deeply concerned about the suffering of the civilian population,” he added.
Lee from Singapore
Singaporean Prime Minister Lee made a similar observation, saying “there has been no meaningful progress” in implementing the demands made by ASEAN leaders in April 2021. The peace plan in five points aims: a ceasefire, a constructive dialogue between the parties for a peaceful solution, mediation by an ASEAN special envoy, ASEAN humanitarian assistance, a visit by a special envoy to Myanmar to meet Suu Kyi and all parties involved.
Lee said that just days after Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen’s visit to Myanmar, the Burmese military again attacked his political opponents and additional prison terms were handed down to Suu Kyi. ASEAN could not coordinate a ceasefire because its special envoy was denied access to Suu Kyi and other parties.
“Prime Minister Lee expressed his view that until there is meaningful progress in implementing the five-point consensus, ASEAN should stick to its decision made at the 38th and 39th summits. of Asean to invite a non-political representative of Myanmar to Asean meetings. Any discussion to revise the Asean leadership’s decision should be based on new facts,” Singapore’s Foreign Minister said. in its press release.
Locsin’s call was more direct: release all of its political prisoners, uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, and respect human rights and the rule of law.
“We also call on military leaders to participate in an inclusive dialogue and resume the process of democratic transition,” said the head of Philippine diplomacy.
Suu Kyi essential
The Philippine foreign minister also suggested that Suu Kyi, “despite her condemnation”, be part of the ceasefire talks between the ASEAN special envoy and the ethnic armed organizations. “Myanmar’s armed forces have nothing to fear, and much to gain, from the democracy they brought to Myanmar by stepping back, or from restoring it by doing so again. Suu Kyi is indispensable in a democratic restoration that will pose no threat of anarchy, dissolution and civil strife,” he said.
The Special Envoy’s access to all relevant parties should not be subject to any conditionality. Most notably, the implementation of the five-point consensus should not be tied to any roadmap, as the consensus is the only one agreed by ASEAN leaders at this meeting in Jakarta in April 2021.
ASEAN foreign ministers were supposed to meet for a retreat in Siem Reap, Cambodia on January 18-19, but this has been postponed indefinitely as many ministers have “difficulties traveling to attend the meeting”. Cambodia holds the rotating presidency of ASEAN meetings for this year.
In the meantime, Locsin said he will work with his ASEAN colleagues “to find measures to alleviate the suffering of the people of Myanmar and push for dialogue among all stakeholders, especially Daw Aung San Suu. Kyi, and substantial progress in the Five”. -Asean Consensus Point.
The Philippines will also work with Norway, chair of the UN Security Council this month, to find ways to “stop the killings” in Myanmar.
Manila and Singapore welcomed Hun Sen’s visit to Myanmar in the first week of January. Last Friday, Prime Minister Lee had a video call meeting with Sen.
Locsin said Hun Sen “deserves wholehearted support”, recalling Hun Sen’s leadership role “to end mass murder and suffering in the Kampuchea National Death Camp”.
However, Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said some ASEAN members were concerned that Hun Sen’s trip could be “interpreted or construed as recognition of the military in Myanmar”.
“Malaysia is of the view that he has the right to visit Myanmar as head of government of Cambodia. However, we also believe that because he has already assumed the chairmanship of ASEAN, he would probably have been able to consult with other ASEAN leaders and seek our advice on what he should do if he were to go to Myanmar,” Saifuddin said.