ASEAN stays united over Myanmar

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The Burma issue continues to be a complicated challenge for Southeast Asian countries. The bloc tries to show commonality of purpose

Unity. This was the concept mentioned repeatedly at the summit of foreign ministers of the governments of ASEAN countries held in Jakarta last weekend. The summit represented the official launch of Indonesia's 2023 rotating presidency. And President Joko Widodo's administration was immediately resolute in its attempt to close ranks on the most politically and diplomatically thorny issue: the crisis in Myanmar. Two years after the military coup, the situation is still far from resolved. The Burmese military's recent decision to extend the nationwide state of emergency by six months has sparked controversy at home and condemnation abroad, as the move was perceived as a signal that general elections promised for next summer will be postponed. The country's transition to civilian rule appears to be receding, while the five-point consensus reached between the military junta and ASEAN remains largely unimplemented. At the end of the summit, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Jakarta had proposed to member countries a peace plan implementing the five-point consensus, which called first and foremost for an end to violence and dialogue between the military and rebels. According to Marsudi, all regional government representatives have accepted the proposal. This is a positive sign for Indonesia, whose rotating presidency promises to be very proactive on the issue. "This plan is very important as a guide to deal with the situation in Myanmar in a unified way," the Indonesian government claims. From outside and within the Southeast Asian region, moreover, come calls for ASEAN to adopt a more assertive posture and thus make a quantum leap in the face of one of the most complex challenges the bloc has faced in recent times. Indonesia seems willing to facilitate this process, but at the same time President Widodo has warned the major powers not to use Southeast Asia as their own field of challenge. Confirming that ASEAN is not willing to take part in contention or contribute to the return of an opposing bloc logic. 

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