Mr Neil Parekh Nimil Rajnikant: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs in view of the ongoing situation and the progress of implementing the “Five-Point Consensus” in Myanmar, what is the Ministry’s assessment of the impact on ASEAN’s unity and image.
Ms Sim Ann: Sir, ASEAN has taken a firm and consistent approach to the situation in Myanmar following the 1 February 2021 coup, which is reflected in the Five-Point Consensus. The ASEAN Leaders reviewed the situation at their Summits in 2022 and 2023 and agreed on a series of steps to send a clear signal to the Myanmar military or Tatmadaw. At the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat last week, ASEAN reaffirmed its commitment to the Five-Point Consensus as well as the Leaders’ decisions. There has been little progress in the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus and in fact the situation in Myanmar has become more dire of late. However, the rate limiting factor for progress is not ASEAN, but the Tatmadaw. Singapore will continue to work with ASEAN Chair Laos, fellow ASEAN Member States, and our external partners to press the Tatmadaw to cease violence and implement the Five-Point Consensus swiftly and fully.
Mr Neil Parekh Nimil Rajnikant: I thank the SMS for her answer. May I ask the SMS what alternate steps does ASEAN have if Myanmar refuses to implement the consensus plan?
Ms Sim Ann: Sir, ASEAN Leaders have reviewed the issue twice and remain committed to upholding the Five-Point Consensus.
Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong: Thank you, Speaker. I would like to ask the SMS, with the change of ASEAN Chair this year to Laos, does Singapore expect any change in the momentum of ASEAN’s engagement with Myanmar? How does Singapore continue to expect itself to support the new ASEAN Chair in ASEAN’s engagement with Myanmar regarding the implementation of the Five-Point Consensus? Thank you.
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan: Thank you, Mr Speaker. Let me address that supplementary question because I just returned last week from the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat. I would emphasise that the key word is “consistency”. ASEAN under the Chairmanship of Laos has expressed our clear intention to maintain that consistent position, and the paramount expression of that is the Five-Point Consensus. I would say as far as ASEAN is concerned, there is no change.
2 The unfortunate change which is happening is on the ground in Myanmar. If you would check with your contacts there, the security situation remains dire. It is almost tantamount to a civil war. Whilst the military has no intention of ceding power, their ability to maintain authority on the ground is being severely challenged by a variety of groups, both the ethnic armed organisations as well as the resistance from the Burmese majority within Myanmar itself.
3 The other point which we have all emphasised is that there is a need to continue humanitarian support. ASEAN is engaged on this, and we are also expecting that Thailand will do a bit more to enable or to facilitate the cross-border delivery of humanitarian assistance. I think our priority remains the welfare of the citizens, the people of Myanmar.
4 We should be under no illusions that ASEAN can magically resolve the problems. Ultimately, this is a political problem. This is a problem of leadership and the political leaders across the spectrum in Myanmar need to get together and reconcile their diverse positions. We still believe that there needs to be direct, face-to-face negotiations conducted in good faith amongst all the political leaders there. It is a complex situation, but we will continue to maintain our consistent position.
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