Interview with a representative from the ASEAN Affairs Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on Myanmar’s stance and cooperation with ASEAN in the implementation of the ASEAN five-point consensus

ASEAN
Chairman of the State Administration Council, Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Services of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing attends the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting on 24-4-2021 held at the ASEAN Secretariat, Jakarta, Indonesia.

Continued from yesterday

There are some ASEAN Member States that hold negative views against Myanmar by sidelining her and limiting its representation to the ASEAN Summit and the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. Such unprecedented action against Myanmar is unilateral and in breach of the ASEAN Charter. ASEAN Member States are obligated and obliged to strictly adhere to the ASEAN fundamental principles of consultation and consensus, especially in times of rising geopolitical competition and major power rivalries.
The world media turns a blind eye to the inhumane and ruthless killings of monks, innocent civilians, public servants, students and children, and violent activities being committed by the NUG, CRPH and PDF which have been officially declared terrorist groups by the Government of Myanmar encouraging for more terrorism, radicalism in the country due to fake news, disinformation and misinformation about Myanmar by the media.
It is essential that ASEAN and the international community need to understand the realities of Myanmar pragmatically and cooperate closely with the Myanmar government. However, the last ASEAN Summit held in November 2022 in Cambodia adopted the ASEAN leaders’ Review and Decision on the Implementation of the five-point consensus derailing from the ASEAN Spirit and ASEAN Way as the review fails to take into account the progress and cooperative efforts by the State Administration Council in ASEAN Community Building efforts and the review and decisions purely aim to put undue pressure on Myanmar. As such, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Myanmar released a Press Statement pointing out the flaws of the so-called review and 15 points of decisions by the ASEAN Summit on 11-11-2022.

Q – Could you please explain Myanmar’s position on the appointment of the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair?
A – As a gesture of goodwill and cooperation with ASEAN, Myanmar is carrying out appropriate measures including facilitating the appointment of the ASEAN Chair’s Special Envoy and his visits as stated in points 3 and 5 of the consensus.
In appointing the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair, it is critical for ASEAN to cooperate with the Myanmar government given the in-depth understanding of Myanmar’s history and the reality of internal politics, and to make constructive proposals based on mutual understanding, mutual respect, fairness and equality in order to facilitate Myanmar’s efforts in implementing the five-step future plan.
For the appointment of the very first Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair in 2021, ASEAN proposed the nominations of Mr Virasakdi Futrakul, former deputy foreign minister of Thailand, Mr Hassan Wirajuda, former foreign minister of Indonesia and Mr Razali Ismail from Malaysia. The Myanmar Government sent a letter of approval on the appointment of Mr Virasakdi Futrakul, former deputy foreign minister of Thailand as the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on 6-7-2021. However, the 2021 ASEAN Chair changed the nomination of Special Envoy to Dato Erywan Pehin Yusof, Minister of Foreign Affairs II of Brunei Darussalam. Therefore, the appointment procedure of the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair has been delayed due to the changes in nomination from ASEAN although Myanmar replied with its approval of the former deputy foreign minister of Thailand.
Myanmar conveyed its official positions on the appointment of the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair and highlighted that a Special Envoy shall not be a cabinet member of the Member State holding the ASEAN Chairmanship, the Special Envoy must be an independent person free from political influences in order to perform the duties freely. In this regard, Myanmar sent a letter of objection to the ASEAN Chair on the appointment of a foreign minister as the Special Envoy.
However, the list of previous nominees as the Special Envoy had been revoked at the 54th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting, and the name of Dato Erywan Pehin Yusof, Minister of Foreign Affairs II of Brunei Darussalam was presented as the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair. In showing Myanmar’s cooperation with ASEAN in the implementation of the five-point consensus as much as possible, Myanmar finally accepted the nomination of Dato Erywan Pehin Yusof, Minister of Foreign Affairs II of Brunei Darussalam as the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair at the separate meeting of ASEAN Foreign Ministers on 4-8-2021.
At the meeting of ASEAN Foreign Ministers, the Union Minister for Foreign Affairs of Myanmar reiterated three official positions of Myanmar in the appointment of the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair; (1) the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair must conduct official communications and work closely with the Myanmar government, (2) Myanmar will not accept new proposals beyond the five-point consensus, (3) the appointment and the role of the Special Envoy should be aligned with the ASEAN principles, particularly non-interference in the internal affairs of member states and ASEAN should uphold the core principle of making decisions through consensus. The Union Minister for Foreign Affairs of Myanmar requested the Chair of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting to put on the record above-mentioned Myanmar’s positions in the meeting minutes.

Q – How is Myanmar facilitating the implementation of the ASEAN five-point consensus?
A – The Government of Myanmar has been in close cooperation with the Special Envoy of successive ASEAN Chairs for implementing the ASEAN five-point consensus while striving for peace and tranquillity in the country. The Five-Point Road Map of the State Administration Council has been laid down prior to the formulation of the five-point consensus in order to restore democracy in Myanmar. Moreover, the Chairman of the State Administration Council himself is leading the efforts for lasting peace in the entire nation in line with the Five-Point Road Map. Those endeavours for peace by the State Administration Council clearly demonstrate the Myanmar Government’s commitment to the cessation of violence as mentioned in point No. 1 of the five-point consensus.
During Cambodia’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2022, Myanmar also accepted the appointment of Mr Prak Sokhonn, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Cambodia as the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair. Myanmar facilitated the first visit of Mr Prak Sokhoon to Myanmar from 21 to 23 March 2022 as well as his second visit from 30 June to 2 July 2022. During these visits, the Myanmar side arranged meetings for the Special Envoy in order to meet with government officials, political parties and the Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) which were available for the meeting. Besides, the two visits of Dr Kung Phoak, Head of the Office of the Special Envoy, were also facilitated by the Myanmar Government.
Considering Myanmar’s cooperation in the appointments of the Special Envoy and strenuous domestic efforts for achieving lasting peace, it is obvious that the Government of Myanmar has been actively implementing the important points of the five-point consensus. Another significant progress in the implementation of the five-point consensus is the Myanmar Government’s cooperation at the States and Regions levels for the provisions of the ASEAN humanitarian assistance through the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA) Centre.
The provisions of humanitarian assistance to Myanmar through the AHA Centre have been implemented in two phases. The Myanmar Task Force led by the Union Minister for International Cooperation was established for facilitating the smooth policy coordination and practical delivery of executing the goals of the AHA Centre successfully on the ground. As of now, Phase 1 which is the provision of life-saving assistance has been successfully completed, and the Myanmar Government is in close cooperation with ASEAN for Phase 2 which is the provision of life-sustaining assistance. Thus, allegations of “no significant progress in implementing the ASEAN five-point consensus” are unfounded, absolutely baseless and far away from reality.

Q – Could you please explain how Myanmar continues to cooperate with ASEAN?
A – As a dutiful ASEAN Member State, Myanmar firmly stands on ASEAN norms and principles enshrined in the ASEAN Charter, Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) and the ASEAN Community Vision Blueprints by fulfilling the membership obligations such as financial and institutional responsibilities.
Despite unilateral and unfair actions taken against Myanmar by a few ASEAN Member States through ASEAN mechanisms, Myanmar will continue working closely with all Member States in maintaining the region’s peace and stability which is crucial for the region’s economic development. Nevertheless, Myanmar will continue working with ASEAN family members to promote and strengthen ASEAN Centrality and ASEAN Unity.
Nowadays, regarding the internal affairs of Myanmar, unilateral and unfair actions and pressures have been taken against Myanmar by a few ASEAN Member States through ASEAN mechanisms which are beyond and against the provisions and fundamental principles of the ASEAN Charter. These unprecedented measures could severely affect the ASEAN Centrality and ASEAN Unity as well as the ASEAN credibility in the establishment of a rules-based community. To prevent the infiltration of great power rivalries and influences into the region, it is a crucial time for ASEAN to keep promoting the ASEAN Spirit, existing good practices and cordial relationships between ASEAN countries and among the peoples of ASEAN rather than advocating the self-interest and political ambitions of individual member states.
Since the inception of ASEAN, ASEAN has made a number of historic achievements towards regional peace, stability and prosperity over the past 55 years through maintaining strong cooperation and unity among the countries in the region and promoting cohesiveness, and harmony for economic and socio-cultural developments. ASEAN countries must overcome various challenges and difficulties by promoting the ASEAN Way, ASEAN Unity, ASEAN Spirit and the “Unity in Diversity” with a deeper understanding and appreciation of different political systems, and economic development of each ASEAN Member State.
Myanmar will be consistently observing and complying with the ASEAN principles and procedures enshrined in the ASEAN and will be fully cooperating with ASEAN for the realization of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 with the Whole-of-Government Approach through effective coordination among different ministries and relevant agencies at the national level. Therefore, it is proving that Myanmar is a responsible, proactive and constructive member of ASEAN, and it is an undeniable fact that Myanmar has the capacity, capability, and motivation to assume a greater role in ASEAN.

(This interview is an unofficial translation of the Myanmar version of the interview which appeared in the daily newspapers (Kyemon-The Mirror and Myanmar Alin) published on 10 February 2023.)

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