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Exclusive: Indonesia quietly engaging key stakeholders in Myanmar crisis – foreign minister


Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi speaks during a joint commission meeting between South Korea and Indonesia at the Foreign Ministry in Seoul, South Korea, Friday, March 31, 2023. Lee Jin-man/Pool via REUTERS

Indonesia has for months been quietly engaging key stakeholders in Myanmar’s conflict, as well as neighbours India, Thailand and China in an effort to kick-start a peace process as violence intensifies, its foreign minister said on Friday.

Retno Marsudi earlier told Reuters exclusively that Indonesia, as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), had launched a quiet effort to make a breakthrough in the crisis, with its diplomats having held more than 60 “engagements” with all parties involved.

Those included the junta, ethnic minority armies, and a pro-democracy shadow government, she said.

Speaking later at a press conference, Retno said it was vital to secure the trust of all those involved.

“Indonesia is using non-megaphone diplomacy, this aims to build trust with all stakeholders, so they want to talk to us,” she said.

“Quiet diplomacy does not mean we did not do anything. In fact, for the past four months, Indonesia has done many things.”

The Indonesian move is the first major effort to bring to the table all the key players in Myanmar’s conflict and push for the implementation of a peace “consensus” that its top general agreed with the bloc two years ago.

“We tried to be as inclusive as possible,” Retno told Reuters. “Indonesia continues trying to play a bridging role to reduce a deep and sharp gap among the stakeholders.”

Representatives of the Myanmar junta and two armed ethnic groups did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokesperson for the NUG said it is cooperating with the ASEAN chair as it is “trying for a peace dialogue”.

An Indonesian foreign ministry official confirmed the move to engage all stakeholders had the support of ASEAN members.

Myanmar has been wracked by violence and economic turmoil since the military seized power in a coup in 2021 and launched a violent crackdown on opponents, some of whom fled overseas to form a government-in-exile, the National Unity Government (NUG).

Others joined armed resistance groups nationwide, which are allied with the NUG and some of the ethnic minority armies in fighting the junta.

ASEAN leaders have been losing patience with the junta over its failure to implement the peace consensus and its continued attacks on opponents. The bloc has since late 2021 banned the junta from attending its high-level meetings until progress is demonstrated.

Discussing next week’s ASEAN leaders summit, Retno confirmed Myanmar’s generals would again be barred.

She also said Indonesia had hosted 195 ASEAN meetings so far, which were dominated by concerns over the Myanmar conflict and regional tensions between rival powers the United States and China.

Alongside Indonesia’s quiet diplomacy, government and think-tank representatives from Myanmar and its neighbours, including India and China, held talks in New Delhi late last month as part of a secretive effort to resolve the Myanmar crisis.