Jakarta. ASEAN is not a “one-issue organization”, the Southeast Asian bloc’s chair Indonesia recently said, highlighting that the political turmoil in Myanmar is not the only problem that the group has to deal with.
An Indonesian diplomat recently admitted that the political turmoil in Myanmar was an intricate issue. But what is happening in Myanmar should not stop ASEAN’s efforts in becoming a group that is more responsive to the myriad of geopolitical and geoeconomic challenges.
“ASEAN is not a one-issue organization. The Myanmar issue will not hold ASEAN hostage,” Sidharto R Suryodiputro, the director-general for ASEAN cooperation at the Foreign Affairs Ministry, told reporters in Jakarta on Thursday.
"We have a grand community-building project going on. Especially in the midst of an era and region marred by rising tension between major economies, and growing political and economic instability. Not to mention the looming food and energy crises this year. This calls for ASEAN to be more solid and make decisions quickly,” he added.
The diplomat said that the bloc would continue to encourage all parties in Myanmar to pursue an inclusive dialogue, while also providing humanitarian assistance.
“The Myanmar issue is a complex one, it is something that they [Myanmar] should settle among themselves,” Sidharto said.
ASEAN decided to bar the Myanmar junta from attending high-level gatherings. At the presser, reporters asked Sidharto if ASEAN ever plans to impose sanctions against Myanmar following the sluggish progress of the junta in implementing the five-point consensus.
“Whatever ASEAN does is based on consensus. If there is a consensus, then theoretically, it is possible. But what sort of sanctions? At the international level, they usually impose a travel ban or assets freeze. Asset freezing may be within the powers of the UN Security Council. As for the travel ban, we don't even invite the junta to our gatherings," Sidharto said.
"But we would not say that is a sanction. We just don’t see anyone having the legitimacy to attend our summits and foreign minister-level meetings. [...] While these meetings have no Myanmar representative in attendance, there is always a table and the flag of Myanmar. This has always been respected by our partners such as during our recent gatherings with the US, China, and the European Union [EU],” he told the press.