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Asean hopes to set up Humanitarian Task Force for Myanmar


The proposal to set up an Asean Humanitarian Task Force will be tabled before the bloc leaders at a Special Summit on Saturday April 24, with Myanmar expecting to be its immediate destination if approved, according to diplomatic sources.

All excepted two – The Philippines and Thailand – Asean leaders will be presented in Jakarta, which has initiated the Special Summit in wake of the crisis in Myanmar. The latter will be represented by coup leader Gen Mon Aung Hliang who will deliver a 5-minute remark in a two-hour tightly calibrated programme.

The Special Summit is being closely watched around the world with Asean’s reputation on the line in its role to bring an end to violence and instability in Myanmar. The coup, which took place in early February, has led street protests nationwide and resulted in 730 killed, 3,300 in detention; and according to the UN, almost 250,000 people displaced.

China issued a statement Thursday welcoming the Asean Special Summit. Foreign Minister Wang Yi said China hopes the meeting will help to promote Myanmar’s “domestic political reconciliation”; while Asean can provide constructive assistance and bring about easing of tension.

In an interview with the Jakarta Post, Evan Laksmana of Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said Indonesia has been seeking a “humanitarian pause” that would bring an end to the violence so that aid can be facilitated by Asean. And if a dialog can be restarted among the stakeholders, it would be the best-case scenario, he said.

CSIS has also proposed humanitarian aids in the form of medical assistance, Covid-19 relief and delivery of basic necessities to the Myanmar people. These activities would be carried out by the Asean Humanitarian Task Force operating with a special Asean fund to be agreed upon at the Special Summit.

Diplomatic sources in Bangkok said despite the absence of the Thai Prime Minister at the Special Summit, Thailand has continued to try and build “trust” with the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s term for military, because such is needed if the Jakarta’s meeting is to make headway on “humanitarian pause, humanitarian work and humanitarian space”.

Pandits in Yangon said Mon Aung Hliang is likely to spend his 5-min speech explaining reasons behind the coup, and if any acceptance of the Asean proposal is to be made it would not be those which will involve anything from the West or any dialogue with Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of the National League for Democracy now in detention.

Xinhua news agency in its report stated that Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi insisted that Asean’s engagement with Myanmar will help “avoid improper intervention outside the territory. “Practice has proved that blindly exerting pressure by foreign forces will not help solve a country’s internal problem, but will bring turbulence or even deterioration to the situation, which will affect and destabilize the region”.

The CSIS proposals underline the importance of “Myanmar-led, Myanmar-owned, dislogue process involving all key stakeholders”.

Yi also held phone talks with Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, who will be attending the Jakarta summit; as well as Erywan bin Pehin Yusof, second minister of foreign affairs or Brunei, the rotating chair of Asean, according to Xinhua.

The Asean Leaders’ Meeting as it is officially called, will start at 1330 hours Jakarta time. Three topics will be discussed covering Asean Community Building, External Relations, and Exchange of Views on Regional and International Issues.

Mon Aung Hliang is scheduled to speak first on the third topic, followed by Cambodia as the incoming chair. Cambodia is represented by Prime Minister Hun Sen. The meeting is scheduled to end at 1530.

Published : April 23, 2021

By : Pana Janviroj Asia News Network