MANILA/KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim on Wednesday told Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that ASEAN should consider new approaches in resolving the drawn-out crisis in Myanmar.
Anwar, who came to office in November, has advocated for a tougher stance on dealing with the Myanmar military regime, which has presided over a deadly crackdown of activists since seizing power in February 2021.
The regime’s leader, Min Aung Hlaing, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that year agreed on a Five-Point Consensus, which called for an immediate end to violence, dialogue and access for a special ASEAN envoy to all parties in the conflict. The much criticized plan has made little progress.
“The President [Marcos], in his wisdom, has reiterated the need for the Five-Point Consensus,” the visiting Malaysian leader said in a news conference with Marcos after their bilateral meeting.
“But I would certainly suggest with this experience of wisdom to explore new areas how Myanmar junta can be persuaded to work and collaborate as a team within ASEAN, and resolve the outstanding issues which cannot be considered as purely internal because it’s affecting the security and welfare of the region,” Anwar added.
The crisis has raised questions about the ability of ASEAN — which adheres to the principle of noninterference in each member’s domestic affairs — to resolve issues within the 10-nation bloc. Anwar said Malaysia, in particular, has been “adversely” affected with the influx of over 200,000 Myanmar refugees.
Anwar carried the same message on Myanmar when he visited Thailand last month and met with Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a former military general.
The prolonged Myanmar crisis was among the regional issues discussed by the two leaders, who also talked about the South China Sea territorial dispute. China lays sweeping ownership claims over the strategic sea, including areas that Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam regard as part of their respective territories.
“I share President Marcos Jr.’s concern that due to the complexity and sensitivity of the issue, we should try and engage and take the position at the multilateral level,” Anwar said.
Marcos and Anwar also agreed to reinvigorate economic relations. They also discussed cooperating on the peace process in Mindanao, which shares maritime borders with Malaysia, and where Muslim militants remain a threat despite the establishment of a new Muslim autonomous region.
“I therefore invited Malaysia to continue supporting the Philippine government’s efforts to bring development and enhancement to the livelihoods of Mindanaoans,” Marcos said.
Anwar, the first leader to be hosted by Marcos since becoming president in July, will end his two-day official visit on Thursday. Anwar will deliver a lecture at the University of the Philippines, where he will be conferred an honorary doctorate of laws.
Source : Nikkei Asia