Labuan Bajo, Indonesia—The Association of Southeast Asian Nations Leaders’ Summit ended with a consensus among nine member-states to engage all stakeholders to end the bloodshed in Myanmar, including junta leaders who were previously barred from attending ASEAN high-level meetings.
In his 25-page chairman’s statement, Indonesian President Joko Widodo also renewed the bloc’s commitment to work for the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct on the South China Sea.
“We welcomed ongoing efforts to strengthen cooperation between ASEAN and China and were encouraged by the progress of the substantive negotiations towards the early conclusion of an effective and substantive COC consistent with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS, within a mutually agreed timeline,” Widodo said in his chairman’s statement.
“We emphasized the importance of self-restraint in the conduct of activities by claimants and all other states… that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea.”
In his intervention at the 42nd ASEAN Summit Retreat Session Thursday morning, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said all stakeholders “must ensure that the South China Sea does not become a nexus for armed conflict.”
“We must avoid the ascendance of might and the aggressive revision of the international order. In an increasingly volatile world, we require constraints on power contained by the force of the rule of law,” he said.
In his arrival statement in Manila yesterday evening, Mr. Marcos said he “reaffirmed the Philippines’ commitment to the peaceful resolution of disputes and advocated for a rules-based maritime order anchored on the 1982 UNCLOS.”
Beijing claims almost the entire sea while four ASEAN countries – the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei – have overlapping claims to part of it.
Widodo insisted ASEAN members must remain united in resolving the crisis or risk the “break up” of the bloc.
“There cannot be a party within or outside ASEAN that can benefit from internal strife in Myanmar. The violence must end,” he told reporters through a translator.
Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said it was time to review the non-interference principle to give ASEAN the ability to deal with challenges such as the Myanmar crisis that have regional implications.
Mr. Marcos said the recalibrated approach will see ASEAN trying to engage Myanmar “at every level and to all the political factions that are active and are involved in that crisis situation.”
“We came to this conclusion simply because … we have laid out the Five-Point Consensus and we put it forward to Myanmar, but it has been two years and there has been no movement. We decided we must try and do it in another way,” he said.
“And there are many members who have experience in these long ongoing political negotiations and the advice is to engage everyone equally, and that is what we intend to do,” Mr. Marcos added.
Since the Myanmar military ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in 2021 it has overseen a bloody crackdown on dissent that has killed thousands of people.
ASEAN has spearheaded diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis, but its mostly fruitless attempts to enact a five-point plan agreed upon with Myanmar two years ago have fueled warnings the regional bloc risks irrelevance.
In other developments:
ASEAN vowed tougher action on human trafficking as criminals increasingly use social media and other online platforms to recruit and exploit victims.
President Marcos and Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh have agreed to elevate their countries’ cooperation in the fields of trade and investment, tourism, agriculture, and defense and security.
Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim invited President Marcos to visit his country to push for more trade between them, Speaker Ferdinand Martin Romualdez has said.
Speaker Romualdez said the 43rd ASEAN Summit would benefit the Filipino people in terms of more trade, investments, and livelihood opportunities. With Maricel V. Cruz and AFP