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Indonesia Doubts Myanmar is Close to Inclusive National Dialogue

ASEAN chair Indonesia admitted Tuesday that Myanmar was still not close to holding an inclusive national dialogue, although Jakarta said it would continue to try nudging everyone into having such talks.

It has been over three years since the Myanmar military seized power in a coup-d’êtat. Many civilians have died since then.

According to Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi, Indonesia has been engaging the different sides in the conflict to cool down the crisis. Indonesia reported that it had organized over 180 engagements with the stakeholders in Myanmar since it assumed the ASEAN chairmanship in Jan. These engagements aim to pave the way for an inclusive national dialogue.

Indonesia said that it had approached Myanmar’s government-in-exile National Unity Government (NUG) and the junta State Administration Council (SAC), among others. The engagements were taking place in multiple formats. Some were virtual, while others were in person. There were times when Indonesia contacted the stakeholders by phone. But judging by the responses, it is unlikely that Myanmar will have this inclusive national dialogue soon.

“Especially for the NUG and SAC, when I offered ‘Do you want to meet without any agenda and preconditions?’, I did not hear any positive response. But it does not mean the door is closed,” Retno told the 2023 ASEAN Media Forum in Jakarta on Tuesday.

“I’m not quite sure whether we will reach an inclusive national dialogue soon. But one thing for sure is that we should maintain the process needed towards an inclusive national dialogue,” Retno said.

Indonesia still has two months before Laos officially becomes the ASEAN rotating chair in 2024. Jakarta is also planning to have more engagements with the Myanmar stakeholders.

“So at least until the end of [our] chairmanship, there will be a number of meetings. But we will not stop at the end of the chairmanship,” Retno said, adding that Jakarta had also been in close contact with the next chair Laos.

The diplomat also told the forum that engaging the stakeholders one by one was to build trust. She added: “Without trust, it is impossible for them to meet, to talk.”

ASEAN in September agreed to have a troika of ASEAN chairs Indonesia, Laos, and Malaysia- as an informal consultation mechanism on the crisis. This troika consists of the current, previous, and incoming ASEAN chairs. Malaysia is slated to assume the rotating ASEAN chairmanship in 2025. The Southeast Asian bloc also decided to stick to the so-called “five-point consensus” as its main reference in addressing the crisis. The five-point consensus is a peace plan that the bloc had agreed on back in 2021. It calls for constructive dialogue among all parties involved.

Human rights organization the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners reported that 4,162 people, including pro-democracy activists and civilians, had been killed by the junta and pro-military groups since the military coup on Feb. 1, 2021.

Source: Jakarta Globe