Mr Christopher de Souza: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs in light of the recent military coup in Myanmar in February 2021 (a) whether Myanmar can be compelled to abide by the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration as well the ASEAN Charter; and (b) whether ASEAN member states will work towards a collective position regarding the ongoing events currently unfolding in Myanmar.
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan: All ASEAN Member States are expected to uphold the purposes and principles enshrined in the ASEAN Charter and the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration. However, we cannot compel any ASEAN Member State to abide by them. ASEAN operates by the principles of consensus and non-interference in ASEAN Member States’ internal affairs, which are also enshrined in the ASEAN Charter.
2 During Malaysian PM Muhyiddin Yassin’s recent visit to Jakarta earlier this month, President Joko Widodo announced that they had tasked their Foreign Ministers to propose a Special ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting to discuss developments in Myanmar. We have always been in favour of keeping communication channels open whether bilaterally, among ASEAN Member States or with our Dialogue Partners. A meeting among ASEAN Foreign Ministers would be an opportunity for all ASEAN Member States to share their concerns and perspectives given the importance and urgency of addressing recent developments.
3 ASEAN’s external partners, particularly the major powers, have an important role to play as well.Engagement and communication are imperative for ameliorating the crisis and facilitating a return to normalcy.Some of our Dialogue Partners have expressed an interest in engaging ASEAN during this period. We welcome such proposals for ASEAN and our Dialogue Partners to exchange views and perspectives on the situation in Myanmar and other issues of common interest. This would reinforce ASEAN Centrality and ASEAN’s relevance. ASEAN will work closely with its external partners to foster an inclusive dialogue with all key stakeholders and encourage Myanmar to return to its path of democratic transition.
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Mr Christopher de Souza: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether ASEAN member states have considered how the recent coup in Myanmar in February 2021 will impact (i) the goal to repatriate the Rohingya refugees to Myanmar (ii) the plight of the people in the Rakhine State and (iii) the future peace and security in the Rakhine State.
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan: The recent political developments in Myanmar will inevitably further complicate the situation in Rakhine State and the efforts to commence repatriation of displaced persons. This is in addition to the existing challenges on the ground caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and armed ethnic insurgencies. It nevertheless remains important that the repatriation of displaced persons is voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable.
2 While it will take time to reach a long-term political solution in Myanmar as well as in Rakhine State in particular, we hope that all parties would give due consideration to the urgent humanitarian needs of the displaced persons both in terms of assistance and the need to improve ground conditions. ASEAN will continue the ongoing implementation of the Preliminary Needs Assessment’s recommendations to improve the plight of these refugees.
3 Ultimately the future peace and security in the Rakhine State requires a viable and durable political solution that addresses the root causes of the problems in the Rakhine State. ASEAN and our external partners will continue to support efforts to bring peace, stability, the rule of law, promote harmony and reconciliation among the various communities, as well as to ensure sustainable and equitable development in the Rakhine State.
MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS
16 FEBRUARY 2021
Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Singapore