MANILA (AFP): Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said during a visit to the Philippines that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) must prove it is “relevant” in helping to resolve the crisis in Myanmar.
In a pre-recorded interview with Philippine news channel ANC aired on Friday, Anwar said that ASEAN, which is leading diplomatic efforts to bring peace, needed to be more assertive and noted that his country was shouldering 200,000 displaced people from Myanmar.
“We can’t see this as a purely internal issue, so I have appealed to friends in ASEAN to say, look we have to be tougher,” Anwar said. “If necessary engage with the armed forces of this country because sometimes the military junta do not understand the civilian narrative.”
Myanmar has been beset by social, political and economic chaos since its military overthrew an elected government in 2021.
Human rights groups and the United Nations have accused Myanmar’s military of carrying out atrocities as part of a crackdown on its opponents. The junta labels its opponents “terrorists” seeking to destroy the country.
“The atrocities, we cannot condone,” Anwar said. “We have to find an amicable solution which is difficult. We have tried all. ASEAN has to prove it is relevant and able to ease some of problems.”
Some members of ASEAN, which has a long-held principle of staying out of its members’ sovereign affairs, have grown increasingly frustrated at the junta’s failure to honor a peace plan agreed with the generals shortly after the coup.
While the 10-member bloc has barred Myanmar’s generals from attending its high-level meetings, Malaysia, a vocal critic of the junta, has called for tougher action. Myanmar’s military rulers have reacted angrily to what they call interference by ASEAN members.