Indonesia told major powers not to use Southeast Asia as a “proxy” for their rivalries Friday at the start of two-day talks between regional foreign ministers, while also calling for unity and progress on the Myanmar crisis.
Southeast Asia’s biggest economy is the chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for 2023 and will later this year host the bloc’s annual leaders’ meetings, which are typically also joined by China and the United States.
Disputes over the South China Sea have pitted some ASEAN members against Beijing and boosted sympathy for US opposition to China’s growing assertiveness, but others have shown support on issues in line with the Asian superpower.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo told ASEAN ministers in talks before Friday’s meeting that “ASEAN should not be a proxy for any party,” repeating a call he made at an ASEAN leaders’ summit in Cambodia last year, Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said.
Another issue dominating talks was the crisis in military-ruled Myanmar, which has been in turmoil since the army seized power in 2021.
The junta remains an ASEAN member but has been barred from top-level summits over a lack of progress on a plan by the bloc to achieve peace between the military and Myanmar’s anti-coup movement.
Myanmar’s foreign minister Than Swe – appointed this week—was not present at the ASEAN talks Friday, the bloc having declined to invite a junta member and only requesting a “non-political representative”—an offer rejected by Naypyidaw.
There has been little movement on the “five-point consensus” agreed between ASEAN and the junta in April 2021 that called for an immediate end to violence and dialogue between the military and rebels.
But Widodo “emphasised that the five-point consensus of the ASEAN leaders should be the main agreement to assist the resolution of the problems in Myanmar,” Marsudi said.