The ASEAN Foreign Ministers had a full and frank discussion on the situation in Myanmar at their Informal Meeting this morning in the UN and agreed for the Chair to issue this Statement. They were appalled to receive reports of automatic weapons being used and demanded that the Myanmar government immediately desist from the use of violence against demonstrators. They expressed their revulsion to Myanmar Foreign Minister Nyan Win over reports that the demonstrations in Myanmar are being suppressed by violent force and that there has been a number of fatalities. They strongly urged Myanmar to exercise utmost restraint and seek a political solution. They called upon Myanmar to resume its efforts at national reconciliation with all parties concerned, and work towards a peaceful transition to democracy. The Ministers called for the release of all political detainees including Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
The ASEAN Foreign Ministers expressed their concern to Minister Nyan Win that the developments in Myanmar had a serious impact on the reputation and credibility of ASEAN. They noted that Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has spoken to his ASEAN counterparts over the past day, and will be writing to Senior General Than Shwe.
The ASEAN Foreign Ministers gave their full support to the decision of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to send Special Envoy Ibrahim Gambari to Myanmar. They welcomed FM Nyan Win’s assurance that a visa would be issued to Mr Gambari in Singapore. They asked the Myanmar government to cooperate fully and work with him. Mr Gambari’s role as a neutral interlocutor among all the parties can help defuse the dangerous situation. The Ministers urged the Myanmar government to grant him full access to all parties in Myanmar, as they had done in the past.
Statements, and more statements. To be fair, put into perspective, ASEAN’s latest statement is slightly more strongly worded than usual. It’s good that PM Lee is writing directly to Than Shwe, Myanmar’s top dictator. I hope it contains even stronger words than the above statement. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told reporters at the UN that “pressure from Asean is the strongest tool we have” to stop the violence. I hope ASEAN leaders understand the weight of responsibility that the grouping has to prevent further violence against civilians.
Singapore needs to demonstrate its leadership in this crisis, just like it did in the wake of the 2004 Asian Tsunami. Miss this boat, and we can be sure that the international community will write off both us and ASEAN as credible players in the world.