Malaysia PM raises prospect of ASEAN engaging informally with Myanmar

July 27, 2023 - 10:44 AM
Malaysia Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim shakes hands with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. during the President's visit to the Malaysia's administrative center, Putrajaya, Malaysia July 26, 2023. (Prime Minister's Office/Sadiq Asyraf/Handout via Reuters)

 Malaysia, one of the biggest critics of violence in military-ruled Myanmar, on Wednesday raised the possibility of ASEAN allowing member countries to engage informally with the junta “without sacrificing the issue of human rights”.

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said he discussed the matter with Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr who is in Kuala Lumpur for bilateral meetings.

Malaysia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have previously rejected any engagement with the junta, though Thailand this year hosted an informal meeting with Myanmar citing a need to maintain dialogue.

“We did touch on Myanmar to strengthen the five-point consensus of ASEAN but also give some flexibility…for neighboring countries to engage on an informal basis without sacrificing the issue of human rights, and the treatment of minorities, particularly the Rohingya,” Anwar said in a joint press conference with Marcos.

The Philippines’ president did not comment on Myanmar.

ASEAN, which includes Myanmar among its 10 members, has pushed, without success, for the implementation of a five-point peace plan agreed with the junta shortly after a coup in early 2021.

Malaysia has been a vocal critic of the junta. Earlier this month, it urged ASEAN to strongly condemn the junta’s actions, including violence.

—Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Writing by A. Ananthalakshmi; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor