Tea Banh Pushes Myanmar on ASEAN Demands

Myanmar Defense Minister Mya Tun Oo attends the 16th ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh on June 22. Photo by Touch Sovandy

Minister defends junta invitation

PHNOM PENH – Defense Minister Tea Banh has urged Myanmar to speed up the implementation of the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus to restore ASEAN unity and cohesion.

However, he faced criticism for inviting Myanmar Defence Minister General Mya Tun Oo to the 16th ASEAN Defense Ministers' Meeting in Phnom Penh on June 22.

As Chair of the meeting, Banh said the Myanmar's crisis is a challenge that undermines the unity and cohesion of ASEAN. 

"We all need to address it," he said. "The current priority is to accelerate the implementation of the ASEAN Five-Point consensus ." 

All parties must be willing to implement the agreements already reached to help bring Myanmar and its people back to normalcy, such as strengthening ASEAN unity and solidarity, he added.

On 24 April 2021, ASEAN leaders reached an agreement on the Five-Point Consensus with military junta leader Min Aung Hlaing at the Jakarta meeting. This comprises: an immediate end to violence; dialogue among all parties; the appointment of a special envoy; provision of humanitarian assistance by ASEAN; and a visit by the bloc’s special envoy to Myanmar to meet all parties. 

So far, the junta has not respected its commitments to peace, isolating itself on the world stage. According to the human rights organization Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, almost 2,000 civilians have been killed since the military takeover in Feb. 2021.

On June 10, Prime Minister Hun Sen sent a letter to Hlaing to express his views on the negative effects of the death penalty in Myanmar, especially when targeting members of the pro-democracy movement.

Tea Banh defended Myanmar’s participation, saying that Cambodia was following its obligation to invite all ASEAN member states without discrimination.

Mya Tun Oo, whose government unleashed a wave of violence after the coup, sat around the table with the ASEAN defense ministers. His participation sparked criticism that Cambodia had dismissed concerns over humanitarian violations by the Myanmar military.

In an unprecedented move, last year ASEAN decided to exclude the Myanmar junta regime from its summit after the junta failed to respond to ASEAN’s five-point recommendations and invited a non-political representative instead, a move Naypyidaw denied. Cambodia, despite angering many, has engaged with the Myanmar regime to, as it said, solve the issue of violence raging in the country.

Tea Banh said he cannot answer all criticism but was trying to fulfill his ASEAN obligations and responsibilities. 

“We have to abide by the principle of no discrimination between members and our theme for this year is ‘Solidarity for a Harmonized Security’, therefore, we have to invite all ASEAN member states,” Banh said after the meeting.

“So, we’ll try to the best of our ability to resolve and overcome all the challenges,” the minister continued, noting the ASEAN Chair’s special envoy will soon embark on a visit to Myanmar, which was part of effort to resolve the problem.  

According to the joint declaration, the defense ministers’ meeting adopted three concept papers, The first paper is on enhancing cooperation among defense forces of ASEAN member states in cross-border pandemic containment while the second is to enhance support for ASEAN women peacekeepers. 

The third is on the establishment of ASEAN defense educational institutions’ collaboration which was adopted to develop stronger linkages between ASEAN defense educational institutions and deepen trust and confidence among member states through exchange of visits, workshops and seminars.

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