A humanitarian aid convoy carrying ASEAN diplomats was attacked by assailants in Myanmar’s southern Shan State.
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1. What is the latest development?
As per the reports, the convoy was carrying diplomats from the two ASEAN countries of Indonesia and Singapore. It also had humanitarian aid to be distributed among the affected people in Myanmar. However, the vehicle was struck in a shootout by an unknown armed group. Although no casualties have been reported in the unfortunate “shootout”. Indonesia and Singapore have berated the attack on the relief package convoy. They have called on Myanmar to assuage the strife in the country.
A small group of militia attacked the convoy, and the fire was returned by the security forces of the vehicle.
The shootout was in the southern state of Shan, where Taunggyi township resides and is infamous for being a violent hit region since the military coup. There has been an incessant spree of violence in different pockets of the country, which has mounted pressure in the region. Myanmar’s military government has been slapped with umpteen international sanctions led by the USA, impeding its growth.
2. What is the situation in Myanmar?
Myanmar has been embroiled in turmoil since February 2021, when the civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi was overthrown by the military junta led by Aung Hlaing. There have been massive protests from various communities, opposition parties, and other factions of the military against the coup; however, the Junta government has carried out a brutal crackdown on the protestors. Several opposition leaders have been jailed, including the former leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, in a kangaroo court verdict. There have been reports of a plethora of unprecedented moves by the government to suppress the protestors.
In 2021, a five-point consensus was suggested and broached by ASEAN to resurrect peace, stability, and security in Myanmar after the fall of the democratically elected government. In the subsequent days, several guerrilla groups emerged against the military coup; the Junta government referred to them as “terrorists”.
3. ASEAN and Myanmar
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is an international regional organisation that was constituted in 1967 by the Bangkok Declaration. It is a ten-member organisation, including members from the Southeast Asian region. The cornerstone of the organisation is to foster cooperation and collaboration among the ASEAN nations in diverse fields like politics, economics, security, military, sociocultural, etc.
The ten-member regional bloc rotates the presidency every year among its member countries. This year, Indonesia holds the presidency. At a time when the military coup of 2021 in Myanmar still looms over the prospects of the organisation, Indonesian Prime Minister Joko Widodo, as per the press statements, asserted cooperation among the member counties to placate the strife in the region.
The 42nd summit of ASEAN is slated to be held between May 9 and 11, 2023. Widodo has expressed his deep regrets for the unfortunate attack on the diplomatic convoy and pushed for the cessation of violence in the conflict-ridden country.
4. Global and regional repercussions
The summit comes at a time when the ASEAN member nations are grappling with Beijing in the South China Sea over a territorial dispute. A burgeoning conflict between the United States of America and China has multiple fallouts for the regional bloc as well.
The ASEAN grouping has on multiple occasions been belittled as a mere talking shop with little constructive work. However, this summit will prove to be a big opportunity for the bloc to play a major role in placating the tensions in the region and global geopolitics as well.