Indonesian Foreign Minister Plans Trip to Myanmar: Report

Ronna Nirmala
Indonesian Foreign Minister Plans Trip to Myanmar: Report Demonstrators gather outside the Indonesian Embassy in Yangon, Myanmar, Feb. 23, 2021.

Indonesia’s foreign minister is scheduled to travel to Myanmar this week, a report said Tuesday, as Jakarta rejected claims it was endorsing a plan by the junta to hold new elections.

Retno Marsudi was to make an hours-long trip to Naypyitaw on Thursday in what would be the first known visit by a foreign envoy since the Feb. 1 military coup, according to Reuters, which cited a Feb. 23 letter from the Ministry of Transport and an official who authenticated it.

The news service also quoted Ministry of Foreign Affairs Teuku Faizasyah as saying that Retno was in Thailand on Tuesday. The spokesman did not did not immediately respond to a request from BenarNews for comment about the Reuters report.

In Myanmar, an activist group rejected the purported visit by Jakarta’s top diplomat.

“A diplomatic delegation led by the Indonesian foreign minister visiting Myanmar in the current political crisis is tantamount to recognizing the military junta,” Future Nation Alliance said in a statement on Tuesday. “We strongly oppose and condemn Indonesia for sending a government envoy to Burma for official communications with the coup regime.”

After seizing power on Feb. 1, Myanmar’s military promised to hold democratic elections within a year. In the days leading up to the coup, the generals had made veiled threats that they might take such action over claims of fraud in the Nov. 8 general election, which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy swept, as confirmed by Myanmar polling authorities.

Earlier on Tuesday, demonstrators gathered outside the Indonesian Embassy in Yangon to reject reports that Indonesia was urging countries in the region to send monitors to ensure that the generals hold “fair and inclusive” elections.

During a news conference in Jakarta, Faizasyah said that Retno was still looking for a regional consensus on Myanmar but that nothing had been decided. He said Indonesia was not pressing for member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to send election monitors to Myanmar.

“That is not Indonesia’s position, because our focus is on how to reach a peaceful settlement in Myanmar that is inclusive and involves all parties,” Faizasyah said.

“I categorically say that such a plan of action doesn’t exist, because the fact is that currently the foreign minister is still trying to forge a common position with other ASEAN foreign ministers,” he said.

Indonesia, the largest country in ASEAN and one of the bloc’s founding members, has been on a diplomatic push to get Southeast Asian members more involved in addressing the coup in Myanmar.

Last week, Retno visited Brunei, this year’s ASEAN chair, and Singapore.

While in Singapore, Retno and her counterpart there, Vivian Balakrishnan. They urged parties in Myanmar to “work toward a peaceful resolution and national reconciliation in Myanmar, including a return to its path of democratic transition,” the Singaporean Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Balakrishnan “stressed that there should be no violence against unarmed civilians. In particular, live rounds should not be fired on unarmed civilians under any circumstances,” the statement said.

US, G7 nations react

Meanwhile, other nations continued to pile pressure on Myanmar to release those detained during the coup, and to condemn subsequent crackdowns on anti-coup protesters.

The foreign ministers of the U.S. and the other Group of Seven countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom – along with the high representative of the European Union called for the unconditional release of “those detained arbitrarily, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint,” in a statement issued on Tuesday.

“We condemn the intimidation and oppression of those opposing the coup. We raise our concern at the crackdown on freedom of expression, including through the internet blackout and draconian changes to the law that repress free speech,” the statement said.

“We continue to call for full humanitarian access to support the most vulnerable,” the statement said, while deploring the use of live ammunition against unarmed people as unacceptable.

In Myanmar, at least three people have been shot dead by security forces in protests since the coup, as demonstrations continued demanding an end to military rule and the release of elected government officials, according to media reports.

For its part, U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration has been working to set up a foreign ministers’ meeting with ASEAN to address the situation in Myanmar, according to Nikkei Asia.

“The United States is committed to working with the international community, including our ASEAN partners, to press the military to reverse its actions and restore the democratically elected government,” a State Department spokesperson told BenarNews, adding, “we have no meetings to announce at this time.”

“We stand with the people of Burma and call on the Burmese military to respect the results of the election on November 8, 2020,” the spokesperson said.

In remarks to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the military takeover and called for the release of all detainees.

“We see the undermining of democracy, the use of brutal force, arbitrary arrests, repression in all its manifestations. Restrictions of civic space. Attacks on civil society,” the U.N. chief said.

“Today, I call on the Myanmar military to stop the repression immediately. Release the prisoners. End the violence. Respect human rights, and the will of the people expressed in recent elections,” Guterres said.

Sino-Indonesian talks

China’s government, meanwhile, said it supported an ASEAN foreign ministerial meeting on Myanmar and was ready to play a role in the process, officials said after weekend talks between Retno and her Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi.

“No other country would care about the situation in Myanmar and expect for its resumption and maintenance of peace and stability more than China and ASEAN,” the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a statement posted on its website.

“The continuing turbulence in Myanmar is neither in the interests of Myanmar and its people, nor in the common interests of other regional countries. Both the military of Myanmar and political parties shoulder the important responsibility for the country’s stability and development,” it said.

Ika Inggas in Washington contributed to this report.


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