04/07/2021, 14.09
INDONESIA – MYANMAR
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Myanmar coup: Indonesia tries a difficult mediation

by Ati Nurbaiti

President Jokowi calls on ASEAN to intervene to ensure the safety of the people of Myanmar whose generals are more interested in Thailand’s military coup than Indonesia’s model of democratic transition. In Indonesia there is little empathy for protesters in Myanmar.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Indonesia needs to continue efforts to open communication channels with Myanmar’s military, which carried out a coup against the civilian government of democratic leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

To stop the crackdown against the anti-coup protest movement, Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has called for an emergency meeting of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN). Such a move, which Malaysia supports, has met with opposition by some ASEAN nations, which usually insist on non-interference in the domestic affairs of the group’s members.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi stated that Indonesia’s utmost concern was the “safety of the Myanmar people”. She called on the country’s military to refrain from violence and open up to dialogue, and requested humanitarian access for the estimated thousands of detainees.

To reach a peaceful solution to the crisis, she called on China, Japan and Russia, which have close political and trading ties with Myanmar.

Myanmar’s Armed Forces (Tatmadaw) are “becoming increasingly violent as they are losing control of the population” in both the towns and villages, said Debbie Stothard, an activist with ALTSEAN Burma, speaking to AsiaNews. The military was shocked to find that the civil disobedience movement also includes high ranking officials.

For Stothard, ASEAN must do more than make ineffective pleas against violence. A solution is urgently needed before the end of this year when the ASEAN leadership changes from Brunei to Cambodia, “who will say [the Myanmar issue] is an internal affair”, since Cambodia is close to China.

Despite criticism against its own democratic system, Indonesia’s transition from military to civilian rule and democracy can serve as a lesson for Myanmar’s military rulers, Lieutenant General (ret) Agus Widjojo, head of the National Resilience Institute (Lemhanas), told AsiaNews.

With the end of President Suharto’s authoritarian rule in 1998, Indonesia’s military gave up its powerful “dual function” role in defence and non-defence matters. Thus, it could serve as an example for “trust-building” in civil-military relations, which is still absent in Myanmar.

Yet, as Widjojo acknowledges, Indonesia is no longer a model for Myanmar’s military who look more favourably to Thailand’s experience under coup master and former general Prayuth Chan-ocha.

Indonesia’s intensive lobbying is missing the “people-to-people” element, this according to Sri Lestari Wahyuningroem, head of the Centre for Citizenship and Human Rights Studies at the Jakarta-based National Veteran University (UPNVJ).

“There should be more solidarity based on a shared civic sense of humanity,” she told AsiaNews. “But there is lack of emotional communal connectivity,” she explained, compared for example to the massive demonstrations in Indonesia and Malaysia, Southeast Asia’s Muslim majority countries, against the persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority.

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