On April 24, 2021, representatives of ASEAN member states gathered in Jakarta to attend the leaders’ meeting on the situation in Myanmar, where the threat of an escalation of conflict looms. After coming under pressure from the international community to resolve this issue, the countries of Southeast Asia agreed to adopt the Five-Point Consensus as an attachment to its usual Chairman’s Statement. In summary, the Consensus contains the following provisions: cessation of violence, constructive dialogue, establishment of a special envoy, humanitarian assistance and meetings with all parties to the conflict.
However, a few days after the adoption of the Consensus, hostilities broke out between the military junta of Naypyidaw and armed rebels across the country, including in the second largest city of Mandalay. This failure to honor the Consensus, at a glance, resembles President Woodrow Wilson’s failure to implement the Fourteen Points as key principles to end WWI and achieve “peace without victory â.
Strict idealism without moderation: a missed opportunity
The drafting of the Five-Point Consensus, since it was an internal ASEAN issue, does not involve any known major world power, be it other regional organizations such as the European Union. , or States such as the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The ASEAN Leaders Meeting in Jakarta (not even a summit according to the standards of the current president), ceteris paribus, would only involve ASEAN member states in its implementation, from senior officials to heads of government. This provision is replaced when the “ASEAN MoreWas used, as the decision-making process would involve dialogue partners from meetings of senior officials to heads of government, and currently the European Union and three permanent members of the United Nations Security Council are already listed. on this list.
By keeping the Myanmar issue in regional internal affairs and recognizing the military junta as Myanmar’s sole representative, ASEAN maintains its commitment to “ASEAN WayWhich favors non-interference, discreet diplomacy, the non-use of force and decision-making by consensus. Surely, involving ASEAN’s Western dialogue partners such as the United States and the European Union at the negotiating table would give them bad public relations if they accommodated the military junta as much as what ASEAN did. recently. But the urgency that exists in the current situation is not in the short-term agreement; it is the neglect of the agreement and the peace process that would have an impact on the Southeast Asian region in the long run. Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, head of the military junta, repudiated his commitment to the Consensus only four days after the agreement was passed due to his prioritization of “”stabilization the country. “This act of breach of agreement has dealt a blow to ASEAN credibility, while other forms of cooperation are beginning to take place in the Indo-Pacific.
Drawing lines from the days of the Great War, this outright humiliation of the military junta is similar to the responses the French and the British Empire gave to President Woodrow Wilson’s fourteen-point proposal at the joint session of the US Congress. As described by Andrew Preston, Georges ClÃ©menceau mocks Wilson’s proposition by comparing the Fourteen Points to the Ten Commandments and establishes a similarity between Woodrow Wilson and Jesus Christ, because ClÃ©menceau believes that the Fourteen Points do not reflect the reality in which the state of affairs evolves in the world. David Lloyd George, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is a more moderate person towards the Fourteen Points, and although he sympathizes with the provisions, he believes that most of them are not in the British national interest. global, as described by George herring.
If only Wilson consulted his great allied powers on the provisions of the Fourteen Points before his public declaration, his image would not be as bad (naivety) as it is at the Paris Peace Conference, the Fourteen Points would not be ignored. by France and the United Kingdom, and the Fourteen Points would have the full support of the rest of the Allies. Returning to the present day, if only ASEAN included dialogue partners who possess the might of the great powers in the drafting process, who have much more leverage to influence the military junta, then the Consensus would have been much more respected by Naypyidaw.
An example of this practice is the JCPOA (Iran Nuclear Deal), which Tehran considers satisfactory and seeks to revive the agreements made with the five great powers. Although ASEAN would have to sacrifice some of its âASEAN pathâ principles, the military junta would be much more in line with the Consensus and hopefully prevent more bloodshed.
The classic riddle of “the national interest”
The reluctance to invite the great powers to work together to resolve the Myanmar issue also shows the lack of united voices in ASEAN member states, as all the nations involved had different political will to show how ready they are. to go to solve the problem of Myanmar. As the President’s statement shows, ASEAN member states have heard calls for the release of political prisoners, both local and foreign. However, in the Consensus, no mention of political prisoners or their freedom is written. This means that there was a public hearing between representatives of member states at the leaders’ meeting which calls for the release of political prisoners, but due to the need for consensus as stipulated in article 20 of the ASEAN Charter, the consensus did not contain the provision calling for the freedom of political prisoners.
While it is certain that the military junta vetoed all articles of political prisoners, it should be noted that other member states have a high probability that they would prefer stability in Myanmar rather than the application of justice because of the national interest. For example, Singapore is the country that supplies the biggest foreign direct investment in the country, and it would be problematic for Singapore to balance its moral obligation with its national economic interest.
This same situation is also encountered by Woodrow Wilson when he returns to the United States, where he must convince the United States Congress to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. Although his Fourteen Points were beaten by the personal interests of other winners, one special provision has survived: the creation of the League of Nations. Woodrow Wilson believes that it was the moral obligation of the United States to support the international community in its efforts to seek perpetual peace by eradicating the destructive international system of the balance of power and replacing it with an international system of collective security, as described by Henri kissinger. Further, Wilson believed it was a religious duty for the United States to contribute to world peace and to collaborate with the nations of the world.
However, his ambitions for greatness collided with a harsh reality when Congress reminded him of the stakes of the American national interest. As described by David Milne, Senate Foreign Relations President Henry Cabot Lodge calls on the US Congress to denounce ratification because of the League of Nations danger to the Monroe Doctrine, as it would hinder US freedom of action and would call for a reserved ratification of the Treaty of Versailles. Wilson, invaded by his moral virtues, rejects moderation and fights the Republican Party. And the epilogue ended with a bitter end: the United States never joined the League of Nations, while the French and the British monopolized the Society to serve their colonial interests.
This does not mean that the national interest is bad, because every nation has the right to achieve economic prosperity. But, this economic prosperity should have taken into account the condition that surrounds it, in order to avoid a blind push towards self-interest that creates long-term calamities. If Wilson had compromised with Congress, there might not be World War II. Had ASEAN taken a stronger stance against the military junta, more deaths could have been avoided.
At present, ASEAN has not yet suggested any change of course in its relations with the Myanmar issue. As mentioned above, things would go badly for the Southeast Asian region, as there were no major powers involved in the deal and the lack of moral obligations. Of course, ASEAN member states could bet that the situation would de-escalate on itself and that the military junta would somehow agree to follow the Consensus again. However, it would be opportune for ASEAN to do what it can to prevent a future disaster, rather than acting harshly when the disaster has finally occurred. But still, a question remains: could ASEAN escape the perilous fate of the League of Nations?