Asean urged to address Myanmar’s military takeover

by SHAHEERA AZNAM SHAH / Pic by RAZAK GHAZALI

MEMBERS of Asean have to step up and play a more proactive role in addressing the critical developments in Myanmar and contributing towards the country’s expedient return to normalcy.

Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein (picture) said Malaysia is seriously concerned about the military takeover in Myanmar and the developments that have ensued.

“The military takeover is a setback to all efforts made over the last decade towards achieving inclusive democratic transition, unity and economic progress in the country.

“We encourage the Myanmar authorities to uphold and respect democratic institutions and processes, the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Hishamuddin added that all relevant parties must exercise utmost restraint from the use of violence that could affect the safety of members of the public and further escalate the situation in the country.

He said it is crucial for Asean to lead a sincere and constructive discussion with Myanmar and all stakeholders to show that the trade bloc is effective as a cohesive regional grouping in addressing the expectations of its external partners, as well as in avoiding unnecessary unilateral responses.

Yesterday, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said Asean’s foreign ministers are expected to hold a special meeting today to discuss the coup situation in Myanmar.

A military coup began to take over the country on Feb 1, when Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar’s former ruling party, National League for Democracy, was ousted by the Tatmadaw — Myanmar’s military.

The Tatmadaw proclaimed a year-long state of emergency and declared the power had been vested in Defence Services commanderin-chief Min Aung Hlaing.

Meanwhile, Hishammuddin said Malaysia and Brunei are exploring a mutual vaccination arrangement for citizens from both countries, covering diplomats, students and expatriates to ensure easy access to vaccine supplies.

He added that the matter was discussed in an audience with Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and his counterpart Minister of Foreign Affairs II Dato Seri Setia Erywan Pehin Datu Pekerma Jaya Haji Mohd Yusof.

“Dato Seri Setia Erywan and I discussed three matters regarding the Covid-19 vaccine moving forward, specifically on a reciprocal vaccination arrangement for both nationals covering diplomats, students and expatriates.

“It is to ensure access to vaccine supplies for both countries and a reciprocal mutual recognition of vaccination certificates between both nations. This step will facilitate cross-border movement of the people between both countries,” Hishammuddin said.

He said both parties also reaffirmed the existing long-standing and special bilateral relations between Malaysia and Brunei and hoped to resolve pressing issues through platforms such as the

Annual Leaders’ Consultation (ALC) and Meeting on the Implementation of Exchange of Letters (EOL).

“The close and special relationship Malaysia and Brunei enjoy is underpinned by our shared interests, common values and interconnected culture.

“Existing bilateral mechanisms, particularly ALC and EOL, are important platforms for both countries to exchange views on issues of mutual importance with concrete resolutions.

“This would include the way forward on the joint demarcation and survey of our land boundary, as well as further cooperation in the oil and gas sector,” Hishammuddin said.

The Brunei government announced recently that the temporary suspension of crossborder activities between the two countries will be extended for another two weeks until March 10.