ASEAN summit yields little progress on Myanmar turmoil

Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have ended a summit with little concrete progress toward resolving turmoil in Myanmar.

That country's struggles were high on the agenda at the two-day meeting in Labuan Bajo, Indonesia, which ended on Thursday.

Fighting between Myanmar's military and pro-democracy forces has been continuing since the armed forces staged a coup in February 2021.

The ASEAN leaders discussed how to nudge Myanmar's military to implement a peace plan known as the Five-Point Consensus. ASEAN leaders, including Myanmar's military chief, agreed to the plan at their summit in April 2021. It calls for an "immediate cessation of violence" and the provision of humanitarian assistance.

A chairperson's statement issued at the latest ASEAN summit expresses deep concern about the escalation of armed conflicts and violence in Myanmar.

The statement also says the leaders reiterated their "unified position" that the Five-Point Consensus remains their "main reference." But it mentions hardly any specific progress to help settle the situation in Myanmar.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who chaired the summit, spoke at a news conference after the summit. Joko stressed that the ASEAN countries must hold onto inclusivity because the bloc's credibility is at stake. He added that Indonesia is ready to talk with anyone.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi announced that ASEAN can now interview non-military personnel in Myanmar as part of the bloc's efforts to supply humanitarian aid to the country.

Diplomatic sources say ASEAN is seeking to realize dialogue among concerned parties in Myanmar by using the provision of humanitarian support to establish contact with pro-democracy and other forces.