SURABAYA, Indonesia: In a bid to resolve Myanmar’s political disaster sparked by the February navy coup, Indonesia will host a leaders’ summit for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta on Apr 24.
Myanmar’s coup chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, is expected to attend, alongside the opposite 9 heads of presidency from ASEAN member states.
There is unquestionably triumphant optimism inside President Joko Widodo’s administration in regards to the summit. Indonesian media can also be enthusiastic.
In its editorial, the Jakarta Post known as it “a diplomatic scoop for Jokowi, who has previously shown little appetite for foreign affairs”.
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Yet a buoyant temper alone isn’t any recipe for a profitable summit. While there’s at all times hope for tangible outcomes, there are a variety of issues to remember.
It is certainly extraordinary that a summit was convened particularly to deal with the Myanmar situation, which is a marked departure from the same old oblique and casual diplomatic type attribute of ASEAN.
In 2014, when the Thai navy launched a coup in opposition to the nation’s caretaker authorities, Indonesia, which held ASEAN’s rotating chairmanship on the time, by no means recommended a particular summit.
Whether the coup was purely seen as Thailand’s inner situation, or that no member nation would dare offend Thailand’s sensibilities as a founding member, stays hazy.
The Myanmar coup has generated a nice deal of worldwide outrage due to the abrupt setback it represented for the nation’s democratisation course of after elections in 2015. It was made worse by the rising dying toll that has adopted, with greater than 500 pro-democracy protesters killed up to now by the navy.
Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi mentioned in late March that the usage of pressure in opposition to anti-coup protesters by Myanmar navy personnel was “unacceptable”. But concern for democracy might not wholly lie behind Jokowi’s drive to deal with the disaster in Myanmar.
INDONESIAN MODEL OF MILITARY REFORM
When efforts had been made by ASEAN nations to encourage reform inside Myanmar within the 2010s, Indonesia’s then-president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY), and his Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, had been reported by the Indonesian press to have performed a main half in nudging the Myanmar navy – the Tatmadaw – to emulate Indonesia’s instance.
Indonesia’s personal navy deposed the civilian authorities in 1965, which resulted in a military common, Suharto, assuming energy, with a whole lot of 1000’s killed.
Despite the appearance of a consultant democracy that adopted beneath President Suharto, the navy remained highly effective politically till 1998, after which it underwent reform to make means for civilian supremacy.
Prior to Myanmar’s first free election in 2015, SBY held conferences with then-President Thein Sein. During these encounters, he supposedly sought to persuade his counterpart of the advantages of reform.
Ito Sumardi, Indonesia’s ambassador to Myanmar between 2013 and 2018, mentioned the Tatmadaw had even despatched its personnel “to study military reform” in Indonesia.
So this vital function supposedly performed by SBY in Myanmar’s democratisation, and the burden of historical past it imparts, might have largely pushed Jokowi’s willpower to do his half.
After all, it could be a poor legacy to depart behind, each at house and internationally, if Myanmar’s democratic beneficial properties beneath SBY had been to collapse on Jokowi’s watch.
Nevertheless, agreeing to host the summit is a daring gambit for the president. If it fails to engender any concrete settlement, Jokowi will emerge with a lot dented credibility and status.
This might clarify why, although Brunei Darussalam at present holds ASEAN’s chair, the sultanate was solely too joyful to let the summit be held in Indonesia.
RECOURSE LEFT FOR ASEAN
Already there’s criticism that by failing to incorporate representatives of Myanmar’s parallel authorities, the National Unity Government (NUG), ASEAN has negated the results of the November election.
But there was additionally the danger that inviting the Tatmadaw’s political opponents may need alienated the junta fully.
Now that ASEAN recognises the military-appointed State Administration Council as Myanmar’s de facto authorities, any hope for a return to the pre-coup state of affairs is dashed. The solely recourse left for ASEAN is to strain the Tatmadaw into agreeing to a type of energy sharing with its political rival, the NLD.
The query that arises right here is whether or not the navy is prepared to co-exist with NLD’s chief, Aung San Suu Kyi, who retains immense public help inside Myanmar, which makes it that rather more troublesome for the navy to win in one other free election, one thing it has pledged to do at an unspecified future date.
The doubtful prices at present introduced in opposition to Suu Kyi by the navy, which embody possession of unlicensed walkie-talkies, breaches of COVID-19 restrictions and bribery, clearly present that it’s desirous to snuff out her political existence. But can Myanmar’s folks settle for a authorities with out Aung San Suu Kyi?
To additional complicate issues, every of the ten ASEAN members has its personal pursuits and agenda to guard in relation to Myanmar.
Singapore, with about US$24 billion of investments in Myanmar – the most important overseas investor forward of China – will likely be cautious about managing dangers to its personal economic system.
But Vietnam, as an illustration, might produce other incentives, because it may gain advantage from the instability brought on by the coup as potential buyers set their sights on neighbouring nations.
In inviting Min Aung Hlaing to the summit, ASEAN has proven a lot of goodwill in the direction of the junta chief, even when on the expense of democracy.
Since it will likely be the primary time most ASEAN leaders have met him in particular person, they every have an unprecedented alternative to domesticate the person who will resolve Myanmar’s future.
Perhaps this will likely be a good begin to discovering a extra lasting answer in Myanmar.
Johannes Nugroho is a author and political analyst. This commentary first appeared on the Lowy Institute’s weblog, The Interpreter.