Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), meeting for a summit in Jakarta on Tuesday, “strongly condemned” the violence against civilians in Myanmar, acknowledging that their peace plan to resolve the crisis in the country was in an impasse.
The ASEAN Heads of State and Government “called on the armed forces in particular, and all relevant parties in Myanmar, to de-escalate violence and put an end to targeted attacks targeting civilians, homes and public buildings, such as schools, hospitals, markets, churches and monasteries,” in a statement seen by AFP.
Since a coup in 2021, the Myanmar military has carried out a bloody crackdown on all opposition, including supporters of democratically elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The leaders reviewed the implementation of the five-point peace plan, signed in 2021 by ASEAN with the junta, but largely ignored by it.
“The conclusion is that there is no significant progress in implementing the five points,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi told reporters after the summit, although the plan remains in place. .
The leaders of the group also decided that the presidency of ASEAN would be withdrawn in 2026 from the junta, and assigned to the Philippines.
“Myanmar will not assume the presidency of ASEAN in 2026,” Zaw Min Tun, spokesman for the junta, confirmed to AFP, without giving further details.
Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos confirmed earlier that his country “is ready to take over the reins and the presidency of ASEAN in 2026”.
“We will fortify the foundations of our community and guide ASEAN as it begins a new chapter,” he added, according to a statement from the presidency.
Members of the ten-nation bloc, often described as a discussion forum without real power, are divided over the crisis in Myanmar, a member country of the group.
ASEAN no longer invites junta representatives to the group’s high-level meetings.
But while some countries want to exclude the junta completely, others want to continue dialogue with the military.
This change of rotating presidency is “a pragmatic gesture”, which allows the group not to see “its agenda taken hostage” by the Myanmar crisis, a diplomat close to the discussions told AFP under cover of the anonymity.
In Yangon, two authorized party officials said on Tuesday that the junta would “probably” hold a national poll in 2025, the first in Myanmar since the 2021 coup. But the United States objected that a poll organized by the junta would be a “sham”.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo had earlier warned ASEAN of rising geopolitical risks in the region.
“ASEAN countries have agreed not to mediate with other powers and to cooperate with each other for peace and prosperity,” he said, amid growing rivalry between China and states. united in the region.
Beijing’s ambitions in the South China Sea – which it claims almost in its entirety – are also at the top of the concerns of ASEAN members.
Beijing’s release of a new “standard” map on which claimed maritime zones overlap those of several ASEAN countries has sparked a wave of backlash across Asia-Pacific, from India to Malaysia to Vietnam and the Philippines.
Southeast Asian leaders were to raise concerns about “land taken from the sea, activities and serious incidents” in that sea, according to the draft text. He also denounces actions that have “increased tensions and could compromise peace, security and stability in the region”.
The leaders should also give themselves until 2026 to conclude negotiations on a “Code of Conduct”, intended to ease tensions in the South China Sea.
Jakarta will also host the East Asia Summit on Thursday, bringing together 18 countries, including the United States, China, Japan, India and Russia.
But the heavyweights of the group, Joe Biden, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin will be absent. US Vice President Kamala Harris, Chinese Premier Li Qiang, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will attend the meeting.