AFTER saying that Myanmar is a big part of the two hands that together make up the family of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) 10, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. asked the rest of Asean to stand by Myanmar, “ready to work with and give what help it is asked.”
“With Myanmar as lead, let us launch a process towards reconciliation. Towards a commitment to end violence on all sides and to de-escalate tension and unrest is vital,” Locsin said during the Philippines Intervention at the Asean Leaders’ Meeting in Jakarta.
He said reason cannot be heard above the shouting and shooting, the provocation and reaction. “We also call on security forces in Myanmar to exercise restraint; and refrain from using excessive force against unarmed citizens and demonstrators; especially against the children.”
Locsin said “it is crucial that we enable delivery of unhindered humanitarian assistance to all who need it. Prompt and adequate medical care and access to health services are priorities.”
Release Suu Kyi
“We urge a return to dialogue. The release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, and other political detainees sets a conducive environment for this,” he added.
Locsin is in Jakarta representing President Duterte as Special Envoy to discuss urgent matters in the region, including the key initiatives on Covid-19 recovery, Asean’s external relations, and regional and international issues.
The former Makati lawmaker said the Asean Leaders’ Meeting “will affirm or cancel the core of our Asean identity, our Asean Way.”
“The eyes of the world are upon us, but that matters the least. How we see ourselves in the future is what matters most,” he added.
According to Locsin, “Asean was founded on the determination of countries of Southeast Asia to ‘ensure their stability and security from external interference in any form or manifestation, in order to preserve their national identities in accordance with the ideals and aspirations of their peoples.’ Our peoples, the peoples of Southeast Asia are watching us now.”
He said Asean was born in reaction to the massive foreign intervention in the Vietnam War, “the cruelest conflict in the post-war world.”
Mercifully, the war ended well, “with the victories of our brothers in this room. Libya and Iraq, not so —and that is a fate I warned Daw Aung San Suu Kyi against when last we talked.”
Locsin affirmed the Philippines’s strong commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, territorial integrity and unity of Myanmar and its return firmly and irreversibly to the path of democracy.
Asean, he noted, is “cognizant of the Army’s role in preserving Myanmar’s territorial integrity and national security, ever under threat from those who wish to break her apart and feast on her dismembered parts.
“But even so, we equally recognize the unifying role of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her country’s history and its destiny.”
Locsin proposed to consider all possible existing Asean mechanisms at hand.
“For a start we support the proposal for the Chair and the Asean Secretary-General to visit Myanmar to initiate talks among all concerned parties; with the view to improve the situation on the ground. Brunei Darussalam, as Chair, is in the position to accomplish significant and steady steps toward the restoration of peace, the return of political normalcy; most urgently, ending the violence.”
He said he appointment of an Asean Special Envoy acceptable to Myanmar and all sides “assures all a mechanism for continuing dialogue and feedback; we support the Asean Troika mechanism.”
He said every step ASEAN actually takes can only be done together by consensus. And it must focus on Asean centrality. “But central in what respect?” he asked.
He provided the answer to his question, saying, “It must be a centrality for the good, such as to protect a member’s sovereign independence and advance its people’s wellbeing and safety.”
Locsin said these times call for a vocal, polite but firm and clear Asean engagement in the form of a united appeal to the better angels of our nature.
“We are better than our critics make us out to be.”
“We offer this advice with the humility of those who went through the same experiences; faced the same choices; but received the help we now offer.”
Locsin recalled the bloodless 1986 EDSA Revolution “where soldiers and civilians faced off, and in that tense moment, when the avenue could have been awash with the blood of fellow countrymen, Asean came together and called ‘on all parties to restore national unity and solidarity so as to maintain national resilience.’”
He said the protagonists in the Philippines listened. “Not a drop of blood was shed.”
“That prompting by family helped the Philippines tread the path towards the democracy that we are today,” he said.
“It reminded us that ‘[t]here is still time to act with restraint and bring about a peaceful resolution of the crisis’.”
Image credits: AP/Aung Shine Oo