Myanmar generals reshape regional political dynamics – the Diplomat
Myanmar’s third coup since the country’s independence in 1948 installed a leader who is already named after alleged genocide and a long list of atrocities linked to the ethnic cleansing of Muslim Rohingya four years ago. years.
Senator General Aung Min Hlaing is the type of leader that ASEAN can do without. Hearings on atrocities at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) continue and this is just one factor that regional leaders have struggled with since his rise to power through the barrel of guns.
Promises that this junta will be “different” from its predecessors and that multiparty elections will take place in a year are not enough. New Zealand has already suspended high-level contacts and imposed a travel ban on its military leaders.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, calls for the cancellation of the coup.
Regional dynamics have changed since Myanmar’s generals passed political reforms in 2011, backed by then-US President Barack Obama, and the new junta is now threatening to rewrite the region’s diplomatic handbook.
The predominantly Islamic nations of ASEAN – Indonesia, Malaysia and, to a lesser extent, Brunei – are rightly infuriated by the self-designation of a general who oversaw the rape, torture, the mass murder and the forced exodus of other Muslims in Bangladesh.
Islamic sympathies help shape politics in Jakarta, the powerhouse of ASEAN, and membership in the 10-nation bloc should not be taken for granted as Cambodia and Laos discovered at the end of the war. ‘last year when it was suggested that the two should be started because of their close ties to China.
But such a move would separate Vietnam and its rapidly industrializing economy from the rest of mainland Southeast Asia and is therefore impractical.
Myanmar has little to offer in this regard and this coup has compromised a complex web of trade and cross-border agreements, such as the ASEAN Economic Community (ACS). And in addition to the ICJ case, Aung Min Hlaing must also be a prime target for the Global Magnitsky Law.
The US government uses the Magnitsky Law to prosecute human rights abusers around the world and allows US President Joe Biden, anxious to address the Trump administration’s human rights deficiencies, to freeze bank accounts and assets of Burmese generals.
Countries like Australia and Britain are considering similar legislation while European Union has been proactive in promoting human rights standards through his Everything But Arms (EBA) policy, where the least developed countries obtain favorable access to its markets in exchange for respecting international standards of democracy.
Attitudes towards China have also changed, with relations between Beijing and most countries in the region deteriorating rapidly.
Beijing has already signaled its willingness to work with the junta and traditional sanctions, targeted Magnitsky sanctions, and a withdrawal of trade advantages under the EBA could push the junta further into China’s still-pending arms. .
Close ties with China would, once again, annoy Indonesia and its regional partners, Australia and India, who are building what was once seen as an unlikely alliance to thwart Chinese encroachment in the Indian oceans and Peaceful.
This would make Myanmar a third point of pressure for the West – alongside the South China Sea and the Greater Mekong subregion – in its attempts to limit Chinese influence.
Bigger headaches are looming inside Myanmar, where anti-military insurgencies abound, providing a range of opportunities for Western and regional governments who have decided that enough is enough.
The idea that Cambodia and Laos should be kicked out of ASEAN for being too close to China was a step too far. In addition, it is a problem facing all countries in the bloc.
But the prospect that Myanmar’s days in ASEAN will be numbered as its leaders stand trial for genocide, albeit in absentia, is not so far-fetched.
This is the general’s call.
Luke Hunt can be followed on Twitter @lukeanthonyhunt