Tricky question: Myanmar’s transition to normalcy, key topic at ADMM

ASEAN defense ministers yesterday stressed the need for efforts to ensure a peaceful transition to normality for Myanmar at their regional meeting yesterday amid the controversial attendance of the junta’s defense minister , General Mya Tun Oo.

The 16th ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (16th ADMM) and related meetings hosted by Cambodia kicked off in Phnom Penh and was chaired by Defense Minister General Tea Banh.

In his opening remarks, General Banh called on ASEAN to remain united to maintain its strength and resilience as the entire region faces pressures from growing geopolitical competition, transnational crime, terrorism, security and technological challenges, climate change, disasters and epidemics.

“Implementing this commitment will help us move forward together towards peace, security and lasting prosperity,” he said.

On Myanmar issues, General Banh said this is a challenge that “undermines the unity and cohesion” of ASEAN and must be addressed.

“The current priority is to accelerate the implementation of the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus,” he said. “All parties concerned must be willing to effectively implement the agreements already reached to help bring Myanmar and its people back to normality, as well as strengthen ASEAN unity and solidarity.”

In a joint statement on “Defence Cooperation to Enhance Solidarity for Harmonized Security”, ASEAN Defense Ministers also highlighted the bloc’s efforts to ensure a peaceful transition to normality in Myanmar by supporting the role of the ASEAN President’s Special Envoy to Myanmar. .

He noted that the ASEAN Defense Ministers are also encouraging the effective implementation of the five-point consensus reached by the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting on April 24 last year.

Cambodia, as chair of ASEAN this year, is expected to play a major role in implementing peace-seeking initiatives in Myanmar. Since being named special envoy, Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn has visited Myanmar twice in a bid to resolve the crisis there, but observers doubt progress is being made.

So far, the military government has reportedly done little to comply with the ‘Five Point Consensus’ agreed by ASEAN leaders at last year’s meeting attended by General Min Aung. Hlaing.

Many political prisoners, including ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, remain in detention as the junta’s refusal to negotiate with opposing forces such as Myanmar’s national unity government results in continued violence.

The military junta announced that Phyo Zeyar Thaw, a former lawmaker in the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) government, and Ko Jimmy, a pro-democracy activist, would be executed for violating the anti-terrorism law, after seeing their appeals dismissed.

Two other people were also convicted of murdering a woman they believed to be a military informant.

The move raises concerns for the bloc, leading Prime Minister Hun Sen to send a letter on June 10 to the head of the Burmese junta, General Min Aung Hlaing, to reconsider the sentences and refrain from carrying out the executions. death sentences imposed on individuals opposed to the State Administrative Council.

Myanmar Junta Defense Minister General Mya Tun Oo listens intently to the proceedings of the 16th ADMM in Phnom Penh yesterday. KT/Siv Channa

“It will also have a devastating effect on the efforts of ASEAN and Cambodia, as ASEAN Chair, to help Myanmar return to normality and find a peaceful solution to the current crisis through ‘an inclusive dialogue process, in accordance with the five ASEAN Agreements Point Consensus,’ the letter noted.

However, according to an article in The Irrawaddy, the junta government denied the request.

General Tun Oo’s presence at the 16th ADMM as well as the ASEAN-China Defense Ministers’ Informal Meeting and the ASEAN-Japan Defense Ministers’ Informal Meeting held on the sidelines of the ADMM was controversial.

Before he landed in Phnom Penh, hundreds of rights groups had appealed against General Tun Oo’s inclusion, but Cambodia rejected the appeals.

“General Mya Tun Oo plays a leading role in the management of the military, which is responsible for committing atrocity crimes with impunity,” said the appeal by 677 civic groups to the defense ministers of the United States. ASEAN.

The junta’s defense minister, who wore his military uniform during the meeting, was observed to be silent, unlike other ASEAN counterparts, simply introducing himself and his delegation and not addressing not the in-depth questions.

“I hope this meeting can be attributed and be the ultimate venue to promote regional solidarity and concrete defense, collaboration and cooperation as we all have encountered unexpected and unconventional security challenges, and seek the best way manage them,” General Tun Oo said. said.

It has been sanctioned by the US, UK, EU, Canada and New Zealand for being responsible for violations of international law.

In a press conference held after the ADMM, Gen. Banh defended Gen. Tun Oo’s attendance at the meeting, noting that it was Cambodia’s obligation as ASEAN chair.

“As ASEAN chair, we have done our best to fulfill our role,” he said. “We must fully fulfill our role, without discriminating against (any country), as defined in the ASEAN Charter. We must be very firm in our theme of ‘Solidarity for harmonized security’”.

He noted that the ASEAN President’s Special Envoy for Myanmar will continue to visit the country to seek a solution.

Earlier this year, ASEAN foreign ministers held their annual retreat without their Myanmar counterpart, who was unable to participate but was allowed to attend online as an observer.

In addition, General Banh also highlighted some recent developments related to regional and global security and defense issues, including geopolitical competition, the South China Sea issue, the Russia-Ukraine war, the North Korean nuclear, climate change, pandemic, terrorism and cyber threats.

On the issue of the South China Sea, General Banh said Cambodia wants to see this sea as a place of peace, stability, cooperation and prosperity. He called on all parties to exercise restraint and avoid resorting to force in resolving issues.

“We will continue our commitment to work with relevant parties to promote the full implementation of the DOC (the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea) and expedite the negotiation of the COC (the Code of Conduct for the Sea), which is substantial, effective and consistent with international law, including UNCLOS 1982,” he added.

ASEAN Defense Ministers also yesterday adopted the Concept Paper on Strengthening Cooperation Among ASEAN Member State Defense Forces (AMS) in Combating the Cross-Border Pandemic; Concept Paper on Improving Support Mechanism for ASEAN Female Peacekeepers, Concept Paper on Establishing ASEAN Defense Education Institutions Collaboration (ADEIC); and the terms of reference of the ADMM Center of Excellence on Cybersecurity and Information, which contributes to the region’s understanding and response to challenges and threats in the fields of cybersecurity and information.

After the ADMM, Heads of Delegations of ASEAN Member States and ASEAN Deputy Secretary General Robert Matheus Michael Tene also paid a courtesy visit to Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Peace Palace yesterday.

Jessica C. Bell