The international community is putting its hopes on a meeting between Southeast Asian leaders this weekend to reach a breakthrough on stopping the violence in Myanmar, as the country’s ruling military junta continues its brutal and bloody suppression of civilian opposition.
Analysts say the special leaders meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Saturday in the Indonesian capital Jakarta could provide the best chance yet to agree on a pathway out of the crisis in Myanmar, which risks spilling over into neighboring countries and creating further instability in the region.
There is considerable international pressure for the leaders to reach an agreement on how best to resolve the escalating violence, stemming from the military’s ruthless ousting of Myanmar’s democratically elected government on February 1 this year. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres said ASEAN’s role “is more crucial than ever” and urged “regional actors to leverage their influence to prevent further deterioration and, ultimately, find a peaceful way out of this catastrophe.”
But an invitation extended to Gen. Min Aung Hlaing – the junta chief who led the coup – has sparked outrage among Burmese activists and human rights groups who feel his presence, whether online or in person, would lend legitimacy to the junta’s rule.
“ASEAN needs to be careful if it is seen to be legitimating the junta even if it’s not its intention,” said Ja Ian Chong, a political scientist from Singapore. “If ASEAN is seen to be siding with the junta, that would probably create more disquiet and unhappiness among all the other groups in Myanmar.”
Leading Myanmar activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi said Min Aung Hlaing’s attendance at the summit would “signal not just to people in Myanmar but also in other countries in Southeast Asia that the ASEAN inst