Special ASEAN leaders’ meeting can reconcile Myanmar’s military and civilian gov’t – Syed Hamid

by BERNAMA / pic by AFP

KUALA LUMPUR – The special ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting in Jakarta this Saturday is significant as it will determine the possible reconciliation between Myanmar’s military (Tatmadaw) and the civilian government, said former foreign minister Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar.

The meeting will also help chart the road map for the restoration of democracy in the country after the military coup on Feb 1, he said.

Syed Hamid said, however, the greatest challenge of the special meeting is to convince the military government that the current situation in the country is not feasible and sustainable for Myanmar and regional peace and stability.

“Myanmar will become a failed state as its economy will collapse without the cooperation of the government institutions, business and commercial community.  As such, it is a very delicate and fragile meeting,” he said, adding the political crisis in Myanmar could give a contagion effect to the region as a whole.

He also congratulated Malaysia and Indonesia for playing the lead role in the reconciliation effort to end the political crisis in Myanmar.

Through the meeting, it is hoped that the ASEAN and Tatmadaw will be able to create a humanitarian pause and start humanitarian works initiated by UNHCR and international non-governmental organisations in Myanmar.

“The special meeting is important as this is the first time ASEAN is having discussions on an internal conflict within an ASEAN member state and it is a key step forward,” said Syed Hamid, who is also the former OIC special envoy to Myanmar, when contacted by Bernama.

Commenting further, Syed Hamid said the meeting is a good start which will give international community the confidence on the relevance of ASEAN as a regional body.

Asked on the non-attendance of Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha for the summit, Syed Hamid said the action is a drawback as Thailand is very close to Tatmadaw government. Thailand will be represented by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai.

On the request by the National Unity Government (NUG), the civilian shadow government in Myanmar, for its representative to be invited to the meeting in Jakarta as well, Syed Hamid said Myanmar should be represented by its powerful military chief as Tatmadaw is the de facto government.

He pointed out that the meeting will not take place if other leaders were to be invited.

Asked whether it is rather late now to convene the meeting since the Feb 1 coup, he said it is better late than never to ensure ASEAN’s credibility, relevance, and centrality.

“ASEAN, together with ASEAN chair and secretariat, can start negotiating for reconciliation and at the same time deal with possible refugee issues. Topmost is to stop the violence by Tatmadaw and bring life back to normal,” he added.

Myanmar has been going through upheaval since armed forces chief Min Aung Hlaing on Feb 1 ousted an elected government led by democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi, with security forces killing more than 700 anti-coup protesters since then.