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Editorial: Japan should support ASEAN’s diplomatic pressure on Myanmar military

  • October 27, 2021
  • , The Mainichi
  • English Press

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is increasing diplomatic pressure on the Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw. The group did not invite Myanmar general and junta leader Min Aung Hlaing to an online summit meeting starting on Oct. 26.


The Myanmar military, which launched a coup in the country in February, has violated the peaceful crisis solutions it agreed with ASEAN. Given the junta’s uncompromising behavior, the measures taken by ASEAN appear appropriate.


At the ASEAN Leaders’ Meeting held six months ago, several points of agreement were reached on Myanmar, including that special envoys and delegations would be dispatched to the country, the immediate cessation of violence, and constructive dialogue among all parties. Min Aung Hlaing attended the meeting, and agreed to the terms.


Despite this, the military has continued to attempt to make its control a fait accompli by announcing that Min Aung Hlaing has been appointed as acting prime minister, among other moves. It has also not allowed envoys to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi and other democratic figures.


For ASEAN, which maintains principles of unanimity and non-interventionism, the measures it has taken are irregular. It shows their sense of concern for Myanmar’s unpredictable state.


Oppression by the military junta continues, and a human rights group says civilian casualties have risen to around 1,200. Prices for food, gasoline and other products have skyrocketed, and some 3 million people reportedly need humanitarian aid.


At the United Nations, Russia and China — who have placed importance on their relationship with the Myanmar military — have remained passive. The U.N. hasn’t even been able to adopt a resolution banning weapons exports to the country. That ASEAN has taken a firm stance against the Myanmar military amid these circumstances is praiseworthy.


Nine countries and regions including the U.S., U.K. and South Korea have released a joint statement in support of the Special Envoy of the ASEAN Chair on Myanmar, and calling for the release of people unjustly detained.


Japan did not contribute its voice to the statement. The Japanese Foreign Ministry, which has previously emphasized it has a unique one-to-one relationship with the Myanmar military, said it did not do so because it wishes to “observe movements within ASEAN.” But in its response so far, what stands out is consideration for the Myanmar military.


Ahead of the leaders’ meeting, the Myanmar military announced it will release some 5,600 civilians and others detained after the coup. But Suu Kyi and some others are still not free. There are concerns of a more violent collision with supporters of democracy.


The Japanese government cannot silently approve the Myanmar military’s unlawful acts. Japan should join international action to support ASEAN’s efforts.

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