Myanmar Still Absent as ASEAN Meets in Jakarta

Written by Kyle Hosey

February 11, 2023

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held its first foreign ministers’ summit of 2023 last week in Jakarta, despite the continued absence of Myanmar. The nation’s relationship with ASEAN has been strained since the military coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi almost exactly two years ago in 2021. Since then, protests and violence have continued in Myanmar, with the military junta resistant to dialogue on easing the crisis. Myanmar’s absence last week is tied to a failure to implement a 2021 deal with ASEAN that would have initiated that dialogue, including allowing ASEAN envoys to meet with the imprisoned Kyi.

Indonesia, however, is insistent that the Myanmar crisis will not derail its role as ASEAN’s chair for this year. Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi stated last month that the crisis “will not be allowed to hold hostage the process of strengthening the ASEAN community’s development”, but also recognized the “challenge to [ASEAN’s] credibility” in her opening remarks last week. As part of responding to that challenge, Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced that a new envoy from the Indonesian military would travel to meet with junta leaders soon as part of a new ASEAN office on the Myanmar issue. It remains to be seen if this new effort will meet with more success in implementing the 2021 deal.

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