Ms Sylvia Lim asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs (a) what is the Ministry’s latest assessment of the political situation in Myanmar; and (b) how best can ASEAN and Singapore contribute towards the well-being of the people of Myanmar.
Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs following the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting on 24 April 2021 (a) what further actions will now be taken by ASEAN to ensure that the Myanmar military will work towards a peaceful and democratic resolution of the political crisis; and (b) what does Singapore hope for ASEAN to achieve and what is the expected timeframe.
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan: I will respond to questions by Ms Sylvia Lim and Mr Dennis Tan on how ASEAN and Singapore can address the deteriorating situation in Myanmar, in light of the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting (ALM) which took place on 24 April 2021.
The situation in Myanmar remains fraught with on-going fatalities, increased clashes between the Tatmadaw and the Ethnic Armed Organisations, and the severe COVID-19 pandemic. According to the UN, more than 700 people have been killed since 1 February. President Win Myint, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other political detainees remain under detention. Protests against the military are continuing. This points to an increasingly intractable situation that threatens to further disrupt regional stability.
Our immediate priority remains the de-escalation of the situation in Myanmar, particularly the cessation of violence that has caused the tragic loss of civilian lives. The ALM in Jakarta on 24 April 2021 was a positive initial step. The resulting Five-Point Consensus calls for: first, the immediate cessation of violence in Myanmar, and for all parties to exercise utmost restraint; second, the commencement of constructive dialogue among all parties concerned, to seek a peaceful solution in the interests of the people; third, a special envoy of the ASEAN Chair, assisted by the Secretary-General of ASEAN, to facilitate mediation of the dialogue process; fourth, ASEAN to provide humanitarian assistance through the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre); and fifth, the special envoy and delegation to visit Myanmar and meet with all parties concerned. The Chairman’s Statement on the ALM also called for the release of all political prisoners.
ASEAN’s immediate task is to implement the Five-Point Consensus. This will not be an easy process. The cooperation of the Tatmadaw will be needed. There are many details to be worked out, including nominating an envoy or a team of ASEAN envoys, their terms of reference, as well as working out how and when to disburse humanitarian assistance. ASEAN will also have to continue to speak collectively to urge the Myanmar military authorities to uphold the consensus – particularly to exercise maximum restraint and begin meaningful dialogue with all parties concerned. ASEAN must also continue to call for the release of all political detainees, notably President Win Myint and State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi.
While the ALM represented an initial step, the path back to normalcy in Myanmar will be a long and difficult one. As I have said before, the long-term and sustainable resolution of the current crisis, ultimately, lies with the Myanmar people. The key stakeholders in Myanmar must negotiate, find a compromise and formulate a durable political solution. Ultimately, it is their political will to do what is right for the people of Myanmar that would determine how quickly a solution can be found. ASEAN can only help to facilitate this dialogue and support the process.
At the same time, Singapore and ASEAN must continue to work with and complement the efforts by the UN and other international bodies, including the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Myanmar Ms Christine Schraner Burgener. Other countries like China, the US, India, Japan and other Dialogue Partners of ASEAN also have important roles to play, given their considerable influence over the various actors in this crisis.
Singapore will continue to do what we can to support ASEAN’s efforts in facilitating a return to normalcy, peace and stability in Myanmar, including through the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus. We hope that wisdom and good sense will prevail, and we stand ready to do our part.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
11 May 2021