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Monday, April 15, 2024

ASEAN ‘strongly condemns’ Myanmar air strike: chair statement

"All forms of violence must end immediately, particularly the use of force against civilians", said the statement.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) “strongly condemns” recent air strikes in Myanmar in which dozens of people were reported killed, said a statement issued Thursday by Indonesia, the current ASEAN chair.

“All forms of violence must end immediately, particularly the use of force against civilians”, said the statement.

A statement from the ASEAN chair does not necessarily indicate the agreement of all member states.

Read more: ASEAN ministers urged Myanmar government to implement the agreed peace plan

The official death toll from Tuesday morning’s strike on the remote Kanbalu township in Myanmar’s central Sagaing region remains unclear, though at least 100 fatalities have been reported by the BBC, The Irrawaddy and Radio Free Asia.

The junta confirmed Wednesday it had “launched limited air strikes” after receiving a tip-off from locals about an event marking the opening of a local defence force office connected to the military government’s opponents.

The attack drew swift condemnation from the United Nations and Western powers, with UN rights chief Volker Turk saying he was “horrified” by the deadly strike.

One villager told AFP on Wednesday that it was difficult to identify the dead.

“We can not identify anymore who is who among the dead because they all became pieces,” he said.

Read more: Why Asean and Cambodia should dismantle the Myanmar military

Indonesia — Southeast Asia’s biggest economy — is serving as the 2023 chair of ASEAN and will host the 10-member bloc’s annual leaders’ meetings in May and September.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said last week that Jakarta had been working hard to implement the “five-point consensus” agreed upon with the Myanmar junta in April 2021, which calls for an end to violence and dialogue between the military and rebels.

But the plan has been largely ignored by the junta, and mediation attempts by ASEAN countries to solve the crisis have so far failed.

Jakarta’s chairmanship of the bloc had raised hopes ASEAN could push for a peaceful solution in Myanmar, using Indonesia’s weight as a regional economic power and its diplomatic experience.

Indonesia earlier this year announced plans to set up a special envoy’s office under the foreign ministry to establish a low-level dialogue with the junta, though little information has emerged about the status of any talks.

The junta remains an ASEAN member but has been barred from top-level summits over its failure to implement the peace plan.

Following the coup that toppled Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government in 2021, a military crackdown on dissent and armed groups opposed to their rule has left more than 3,200 people dead, according to a local monitoring group.