'Talk shop?': Duterte says ASEAN must show it can handle Myanmar situation

Published October 28, 2021, 10:33 AM

by Ellson Quismorio

President Duterte prodded the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to prove that it isn’t all talk when it comes to addressing the escalating internal conflict in Myanmar.

President Rodrigo Duterte (Malacañang photo)

“The lack of progress in Myanmar has put ASEAN’s credibility into question. How we respond collectively will either affirm ASEAN’s relevance or reveal our impotence,” Duterte said in his intervention during the virtual plenary session of the 39th ASEAN Summit Tuesday, Oct. 26.

“It is up to us to prove that ASEAN is not just a ‘talk shop’,” the Philippine leader said, alluding to a familiar criticism about the 54-year-old regional bloc.

Myanmar, formerly Burma, didn’t participate in the ongoing simultaneous 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits as it is in the middle of a worrisome strife that is taking an increasing number of civilian lives.

“The whole world now watches ASEAN. Countries have issued statements, while some [imposed] sanctions against a member of our ASEAN family…I am deeply concerned that the ongoing situation in Myanmar may further exacerbate the effects of the [coronavirus disease] pandemic,” Duterte said.

He said that the Philippines urges all parties in Myamar to engage in constructive dialogue with ASEAN.

“We are, after all, an ASEAN family. And if [we] cannot trust each other and [work] together, then who can Myanmar trust and work with?” he pointed out.

Duterte said the United Nations (UN) Security Council and General Assembly has also strongly condemned the crackdown on peaceful protesters and civil society.

“They called for the immediate and unconditional release of arbitrary detainees and an end to restrictions on freedom of expression,” he said.

“While focusing on comprehensive recovery efforts, we must stand with Myanmar in resolving issues peacefully and in a manner that prioritizes the welfare of its people,” he stressed.

Duterte is attending the 38th and 39th ASEAN Summits and Related Summits virtually via video conference. The events, which are being hosted by Brunei, will run from Oct. 26 to 28.