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ASEAN appeals for calm as conflict in Myanmar escalates

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) released a statement on Thursday expressing that it is “deeply concerned” about escalating violence in Myanmar, especially in the country’s westernmost Arakan State and Myawaddy Township of Karen State – located along its eastern border with Thailand. 

It called for the immediate cessation of violence, and for “inclusive dialogue” among all parties of the conflict. The regional bloc also called on the Myanmar military regime in Naypyidaw and its myriad Ethnic Armed Organizations (EAOs) – some of which are resisting a return to military rule since the 2021 coup – to uphold international humanitarian law and take steps to diffuse tensions.

Violence along the Thai-Myanmar border, in the town of Myawaddy, has escalated since the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) captured the last military base in the area on April 11. Myawaddy is now reportedly under the control of a coalition of ethnic Karen armed groups. The military regime, which has faced unprecedented battlefield losses since Oct. 27, launched a counterattack on Sunday.

“I want the Thai government to be more serious about this issue. If you don’t do anything, there will be people who die every day. There would be people who are displaced from their homes every day. So the Myanmar issue cannot wait whatsoever,” said Lalita Hanwong, an advisor to the Thai parliament’s National Security, Border Affairs, Strategies and Reforms committee.

Fighting has intensified in Myanmar’s Arakan State since the Arakan Army (AA) launched its latest offensive – as the next step in the Brotherhood Alliance’s Operation 1027 – against the military on Nov. 13. It has taken control of eight townships in Arakan and Paletwa Township in southern Chinland. 

ASEAN stated its Five-Point Consensus, which was adopted in April 2021 but never implemented by regime leader Min Aung Hlaing, calls for the end of all violence in Myanmar, the delivery of humanitarian aid, and dialogue between all parties. 

Thailand began humanitarian aid deliveries into Myanmar’s Karen State on March 25 in coordination with the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management. 

Laos assumed chair of ASEAN in January. It appointed the senior Lao diplomat Alounkeo Kittikhoun as the ASEAN Special Envoy to Myanmar. He has held meetings with Min Aung Hlaing, the National Unity Government (NUG), and EAO representatives.

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