ASEAN was formed in 1967. Members signed the ASEAN Charter in Bangkok, legitimising the grouping. The Charter itself stood as a legally binding agreement among members. The salient points being to prosper based upon principles of democracy, rule of law and good governance. Plus a more critical, non interference in the internal affairs of others. Obviously the latter point has been a bone of contention between Myanmar and some of the more outspoken countries of ASEAN, especially when it comes to Myanmar.
The current relationship between ASEAN and Myanmar seems to be basing on the fundamental belief that Myanmar military is good for nothing, ruthless, killing innocents, and the current government is doing nothing good for the country. The reality cannot be further from the truth. Without the military takeover on January 31, 2021, we would have a government in place through fraudulent elections and voters fraud, continuation of corruption at the very top level of the past five years (>90% of NLD ministers are now in jail for corruption!), brought the country down to a path of losing its national identity through uncontrolled entry of illegals from neighbouring state in the west.
Yet, ASEAN is doing as much as possible, at every single event to embarrass current Myanmar government. Unless Myanmar follows what the West and ASEAN dictate, they will not accept Myanmar in the current state.
The West and ASEAN continue to believe in the fake news put up by exile media and their related terrorist organisations (NNCP – NUG, NLD, CRPH, PDF), without any form of fact checking whatsoever. They are indirectly supporting the killing of innocent people and targeted assassinations, as these fake news facebook pages are filled people encouraging to kill and murder anyone who fight for the truth and consequently, not in line with their ideology.
In the middle of September, a retired military officer / an ambassador was assassinated in Hlaing township of Yangon by the terrorists. They have been watching his movements and his house for three consecutive days, before finally carrying out the murder. Even though the perpetrators are now in custody, it is an undeniable example of a net loss for Myanmar, where the life of an educated, learned person, who has contributed and who still can contribute to the nation, has to be exchanged with some terrorists who steadfastly believe killing only would help their cause for democracy. Exactly on the contrary. It is becoming unmistakably similar to BCP (Burmese Communist Party) actions of 1950s or the Pol Pot era actions of the 1970s. Through continued support, be it direct or indirect, of the terrorist organisations, ASEAN is contributing significantly to the instability and insecurity in Myanmar, while ridding of the talented and good people of Myanmar at the same time. Evidently, the ASEAN policy of constructive engagement is no longer on the table.
Within ASEAN itself, two or three specific groups have evolved. The first group, distinctly anti-Myanmar, believes that the current government should simply give the power back to the party that has cheated in the 2020 elections, or at least negotiate with them, to put in a process to hand the power back to a corrupt government. They include Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and possibly Brunei. E.g., Singapore foreign minister has clearly stated that the country does not recognised the current government. Malaysia foreign minister has meet leaders of terrorist organisations as a show of support for these people, possibly to continue their terrorism activities in Myanmar. Indonesia parliament is also trying to put forward some actions to punish Myanmar, in the middle of September.
At every ASEAN meeting, Myanmar is neither invited nor invited in full. Yet, they be quick to issue statements and announcements admonishing Myanmar, or expressing statements of grave concerns for the happenings here. Yet they are the ones supporting the terrorist groups, at least indirectly. They talked about democracy in Myanmar, yet, a lot more ASEAN countries are less democratic than Myanmar. Think about private newspapers, or criticisms against leaders in some of these countries!
Some countries obviously sit on the fence; Thailand a prime example.
The rest of the ASEAN are in line with the principle of non-interference and would like Myanmar internal issues be addressed internally.
In addition to their support for illegal terrorist organisations, ASEAN seems to be acting as a lapdog for US. At the ASEAN summit and 121 meetings, US continues to push ASEAN, especially Singapore to restrict Myanmar government access to funds from its banks, with the sole objective to make the government fall. The very fact that ASEAN is allowing being dictated by the US worrying.
There are three reasons for this incessant anti-Myanmar push by some ASEAN countries: these country leaders being in good relations with the leaders of the previous corrupt government, some members being under the obvious influence of the West, especially the US, and due to lack of good communication by the current government, to the world on salient factual points.
How should we proceed?
Here, Sun Tzu’s Art of War would be handy.
Sun Tzu said, “On the grounds of intersecting highways, join hands with your allies”. This the situation Myanmar is in now at the junction of intersection highways, both geographically and politically, with possible attacks on various fronts. And the government actions are in line with Sun Tzu’s recommendations. We have three very good allies, in the Bear, the Panda and the Elephant. China is already our largest trading partner and Russia and India would follow suit in no time.
“The best defence is a good offence”, is another Sun Tzu’s quote that Myanmar could use; by not being too defensive and let others bully. At this point of time, every single policy of dealing with the foreign countries seem defensive. Every week, MOFA would issue statements rebutting this and that, trying so hard to defend our position that sometimes, it even sounded desperate. We need to have our own line of attacks, rather than rebuttals all the time. Even China and Russia have their own channels in English, opening attacking lines upon US and the West, all the time now. We will never will anything just by being defensive.
The last action would be to communicate to the outside world in a language that they can understand. The objective was to have facts, evidences and truths to reach to the outside world. At present, the government held press conferences once or twice a month, yet everything explanations and QnAs are in Burmese language. Then the whole world have to learn from fake news media group to read news about Myanmar. Hence, the government must add on communication in English to augment the current plan, to positively convey the right messages to the outside world.
The country must move from a position of defence to a more offensive position. Because there are some people out there, who would bully us and talk bad about us, regardless of how well we do and how good our intentions are. Just think about this; if you got bully at school, would you just lie down and take it! As short as the last week of September, UN Human Rights Chief, as quoted as saying that upcoming Myanmar elections would be a fraud, telling everyone not to assist in the current government upcoming elections process.
This is the same UN, who refused to give a single doze of Covid vaccine to Myanmar in 2021, during our dark period of Covid. Talking about using healthcare as a political tool! Just to make the ordinary folks suffer. There are some elements out there who would want Myanmar to be cowed and fall in line with whatever they dictate.
Time to appease everyone all over the world is over. We have to do what is right for Myanmar. We cannot play defensive internationally and just be angels. Figuratively, both in English and in Burmese. (In Burmese, ‘Angel’ has the same pronunciation as being just loud at home and chicken out outside of your home)