Singapore Says ASEAN Is Not As Effective In Myanmar As Hoped | Military news
Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan says the political situation in Myanmar is “grim” and has promised to facilitate dialogue and provide humanitarian aid.
The progress of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Myanmar has not been as effective as hoped, Singapore’s foreign minister said in an interview, as the protests and violence in the country continue.
The United Nations and many countries have urged ASEAN, of which Myanmar is a member, to restore stability through diplomacy.
“(ASEAN is) not as effective or as fast as we hoped. But that’s a difficult situation, ”Vivian Balakrishnan told Reuters.
In April ASEAN announced a five-point consensus to resolve the crisis. As part of this effort, the bloc appointed Brunei’s second foreign minister special envoy for Myanmar in early August.
Balakrishnan said he hoped there would be progress to report on the envoy’s visit ahead of the ASEAN leaders’ summit in November. However, he warned that the military would have to give the envoy access to everyone involved in order for the visit to be meaningful.
“The crucial litmus test will now be how you deal with our special envoy,” said Balakrishnan.
The death toll from the February 1 coup in Myanmar topped this week, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) activist group, which has recorded killings by security forces.
Serious humanitarian crisis
Myanmar’s economy has collapsed since the coup and a humanitarian crisis deepened last month as coronavirus infections soared and overwhelmed the health system.
Balakrishnan called the situation “grim” and said ASEAN was trying to be constructive, facilitate dialogue and provide humanitarian aid.
“We maintained lines of communication,” said Balakrishnan when asked whether ASEAN or Singapore had worked with the shadow government of the National Unity. “We’re not trying to make things difficult. And we don’t play sides. But (the military authorities) know that we will all get involved. “
Singapore is small but has strong economic and political influence in Southeast Asia. Some rights groups say Singapore has influence as one of the largest investors in Myanmar thanks to its close ties with the country.
The city-state had approved a cumulative US $ 24.1 billion in investments there since 1988, according to official Myanmar data. This made it the largest source of foreign capital there, ahead of China.
Join @burmacampaignuk & 443 CSOs in #Myanmar by signing this petition to request that @antonioguterres, the UN Secretary-General, personally lead UN efforts to address the coup and Covid crisis in Myanmar to respond to #WhatsHappeningInMyanmar https://t.co/wiXBareyg3
– Progressive Voice (@PVamplify) August 21, 2021
However, Balakrishnan said Singapore’s “so-called leverage” is “overrated” as the sum also includes multinational companies that have invested in Myanmar.
He said economic sanctions would hit the people but have a limited impact on military authorities, which are better able to withstand the isolation.
There has been no discussion within ASEAN about the expulsion or suspension of Myanmar, the minister said, adding that the bloc wants to be constructive but does not want to interfere in domestic politics.
He spoke to Reuters two days before US Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Vietnam and Singapore. The trip is intended to show that the Biden government is committed to a “free and open Indo-Pacific” and that the United States is staying in the region “to stay,” according to a senior official.
“We hope to make progress on collaboration, pandemic recovery, the digital economy, the green economy and cybersecurity,” said Balakrishnan. “It’s not just feel-good diplomacy, there is substantial work.”
Meanwhile, protests across Myanmar continued on Saturday, urging military rulers to return the country to democracy.
Social media posts showed protests in Mandalay and Kachin also calling on the international community to recognize the shadow government of national unity, made up mostly of the country’s ousted elected leaders.