The seemingly unstoppable crisis in Myanmar is a catastrophe by any modern-day measure.
When a nation’s military force kills its own citizens and is determined to rob an entire population’s right to choose a government through the democratic process, it is not a crisis but a catastrophe.
While world bodies issue statement after statement condemning this, other leaders have threatened to take tougher stands, including sanctions on Myanmar.
But the military junta remains totally indifferent and defiant, leaving the citizens of Myanmar crying out to the world in pain, while still counting the growing number of people killed under hails of gunfire.
Asean leaders have also issued statements and pleas to the junta, asking General Min Aung Hliang to stop the massacre in Myanmar.
The Asean fraternity has so far stuck to its ‘Asian’ path of diplomacy in brokering for peace.
But the Myanmar military is not backing off. China, the closest superpower, is giving out any signals of hope.
Meanwhile, the people of Myanmar are putting aside their ethnic differences and coming together to continue resisting non-violently the junta’s stubbornly advancing military might.
How many more lives will have to be sacrificed before a new dawn begins in the country? Will democracy return to Myanmar or is it a done deal that its 55 million people will sink deeper into the grip of authoritarian rule?
While the region and the West may be embroiled with their Covid-19 battles, here are some serious lessons for Asean if it is to wade through the emerging geopolitical scenario successfully.
Asean has only two pathways ahead of it. It either heads along the democratic path or it becomes subservient to China, which appears to have plans to become a regional superpower.
While some Asean member nations may think that they are better off pushing ahead with a diplomatic balancing act between the US and China, the geopolitical reality is something else.
Integrity and a concerted political will to plug corruption will truly count. If Asean can win the war against corruption, it will be in a better off position to ensure that what has befallen Myanmar will not be the fate of their own nations too.
The military of every nation is there to defend and safeguard its own people. The enemy would be any country or group out to undermine the sovereignty of our respective nations, which should be defended at all times. This must be a shared responsibility for Asean, if it is to succeed beyond its grand plans.
When the military gets involved in politics or plays to the tune of politicians, it is like a time-bomb ticking.
Asean leaders must grow out of their old ‘mind-your-own-business’ mould of diplomacy. Their preaching about the forging of an economic belt of sorts cannot anymore be an independent choice but one of collaboration and conformity in partnership.
The truth is China will never change its ideology as much as the democratic nations the world over will not change theirs. Hence, Asean must realise that intentions alone are not enough. The journey ahead has to be planted with clear indications of the direction each nation is taking.
The fact is political leaders of Asean nations are highly dependent on economic progress – which solidifies their respective power base.
When the US imposes a host of trade conditions, restrictions and benchmarks that Asean nations may struggle to conform to, some member nations might be tempted to go the way of China, which gives them an alternative ready market.
What is clear in Myanmar is that, despite the long years of a military presence in politics, the people there seem even more determined to attain democracy.
Using that as a barometer, we can safely say that the rest of the people of Asean would not want to forgo their independence and freedom, which is firmly anchored to democracy.