Jakarta. Indonesia seeks to show that "ASEAN matters" when it assumes the 2023 chairmanship of the Southeast Asian bloc, which still struggles to end the prolonged political conflict in fellow member state Myanmar.
"We will hold the [ASEAN] chairmanship in the midst of a global situation that is not getting any better. And at home, the situation in Myanmar has posed its own challenge for ASEAN," Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi said when virtually addressing a foreign policy forum on Saturday.
"For this reason, Indonesia wants to make ASEAN remain important and relevant -- ASEAN matters," Retno said.
But showing ASEAN's relevancy -- to its people, the Indo-Pacific region, or the world as a whole -- is not the only thing that is on 2023 chair Indonesia’s to-do list. According to Retno, Indonesia also wants to maintain Southeast Asia's position as the epicenter of growth.
"Economic growth is the story of ASEAN. That is why Indonesia's chairmanship will embrace the theme of 'ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth. Hopefully, Indonesia will be able to assume the ASEAN chairmanship as well as its G20 presidency this year," Retno told the conference.
It is without a doubt that all eyes would be on Indonesia and its strategy to address the Myanmar crisis as the ASEAN chair. The Myanmar military seized power in Feb. 2021, during which Brunei Darussalam was at the helm of ASEAN. Its successor Cambodia inherited the challenge of resolving the crisis, which it would then pass on to Indonesia.
According to the Indonesian permanent representative to ASEAN Derry Aman, Indonesia will continue the work of the two previous chairs in regard to the Myanmar conflict. This includes getting Myanmar to adopt the agreed five-point consensus, which among others, calls for constructive dialogue among all parties.
But when asked what would the Indonesia-led bloc do if Myanmar disregards the consensus, Derry said at the same conference that "we would have to discuss again among the ASEAN whether the five-point consensus remains relevant at that point in the future. But to date, I do believe that the consensus is comprehensive.”
One of the five points calls for the appointment of a special envoy to Myanmar as a mediator to the crisis. Derry admitted that he still does not know who would become Indonesia's special envoy, although preceding chairs had chosen their top diplomats.
"It is the chair's prerogative to assign the special envoy. Although of course, everyone would expect someone who is capable of carrying out their duty as a special envoy," Derry said.
"Predecessors Brunei and Cambodia named their foreign affairs minister [as the special envoys]. Honestly, I don't know. But it could be our foreign affairs minister," he said.