ASEAN summit derailed by Myanmar violence

Briefly: Concerns over Myanmar dominated talks during this week’s annual summit of leaders from ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations).

The 10-member bloc issued a five-point peace plan for Myanmar (a member country) back in 2021, but the ruling junta has ignored it, using a thermobaric weapon (aka ‘vacuum bomb’) in an attack that killed 160 villagers last month.

And the violence hit home on Sunday (7 May), when an ASEAN aid convoy in Myanmar (carrying Indonesian and Singaporean diplomats) came under fire.

Intrigue’s take: ASEAN was built on a spirit of joint decisions, and not interfering in others’ internal affairs. That’s partly driven ASEAN’s passive approach so far.

But it’s an approach that’s now making less sense. First, it’s Myanmar’s actions that are now interfering with the region’s internal affairs: some 200,000 folks have fled to Malaysia, and drug and human trafficking is spreading too.

But second, ASEAN has much more heft and wealth now than when it was founded in 1967. And that brings with it much more responsibility to act.

Also worth noting:

  • Malaysia’s PM shared footage of him urging fellow leaders to find a “new vision” for ASEAN, to better handle situations like Myanmar.
  • This year’s summit was hosted by ASEAN’s largest economy, Indonesia, which set the theme as ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth. Tensions in the South China Sea were also high on the agenda.