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ASEAN offers paltry concern over rising violence in Burma

Cambodia, the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asians (ASEAN), claimed it is “gravely concerned” in a statement issued on Oct. 26 over escalating violence in Burma. The statement cited escalating fighting in Karen State, the bombing at Insein Prison, and a recent airstrike in Hpakant, Kachin State that killed dozens as evidence of the deteriorating situation in Burma. It also claimed that these incidents violate “the spirit of ASEAN’s Five-Point Consensus” and the ASEAN envoy’s efforts to mediate the country’s political crisis.

“We urgently call on all parties concerned, in particular one with significant power on the ground, to take concrete actions to enable a process of inclusive and constructive dialogue and to seek a peaceful solution and national reconciliation in Myanmar, and for the sake of peace, security and stability in the region,” the statement added. Cambodia did not directly implicate the Burma Army in numerous recent attacks on civilians. The statement was widely criticized online.

“Really very far from ASEAN ‘s finest hour. The statement doesn’t even name the brutal Myanmar military’s culpability in massacring citizens in Kachin, Sagaing, and Karen states,” Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, stated on Twitter. The foreign ministers of ASEAN members are due to hold a special meeting on Oct. 27 in Jakarta to discuss worsening violence on Burma. The emergency meeting comes as the foreign ministers of Singapore and Malaysia previously called on ASEAN to reassess the Five-Point Consensus by November.  

Burma’s military regime agreed to the Five-Point Consensus in April of 2021 at an ASEAN meeting in Indonesia. The consensus called for a cessation of violence in Burma and the start constructive dialogue among all parties. However, The Burma Army has only escalated its attacks against civilians across the country. Indonesia will take over as chair of ASEAN in 2023.

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