The current geopolitical landscape adds complexity to Myanmar’s protracted crisis

Cambodian Foreign Minister and ASEAN Special Envoy to Myanmar Prak Sokhonn shakes hands with General Min Aung Hlaing, Chairman of Myanmar’s ruling State Administrative Council (SAC), June 30 . MFAIC

For 18 months, there has still been no substantial progress in getting out of the Burmese crisis. In the current geopolitical environment, the prospect of meaningful resolutions remains difficult.

When talking about Myanmar right now, there will always be news of armed clashes between the military authority of Naypyidaw, or Tatmadaw, and other armed groups, including its rival, the National Unity Government (NUG ). The country is ridden with crises, while the existing resolutions are still limited.

Internally, Myanmar is divided into occupied zones. Not all conflicting parties have yet shown signs of talking to each other. The current trend is so pessimistic.

Externally, many players in the region and the world are reacting, in particular on the implementation of the ASEAN Five-Point Consensus (FP5). A year after the adoption of FP5, it is observed that the ASEAN Special Envoy – especially during Cambodia’s ASEAN Chairmanship – has tried to exert many efforts to fulfill key missions, including stopping violence, the promotion of political dialogue among Myanmar stakeholders and the delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need in Myanmar. We have seen frequent visits and contacts between the ASEAN special envoy and the parties in Myanmar. However, as the crisis in Myanmar is complex and involves many layers of conflict, and as the Tatmadaw has not shown a concrete commitment to cooperate with ASEAN, the momentum towards significant breakthroughs is still far from being. achieved.

Recent events, such as the execution of four Myanmar democracy activists by military authorities, have left ASEAN leaders disappointed. In August this year, Prime Minister Hun Sen even suggested that ASEAN “rethink our role vis-à-vis ASEAN 5CP” if the military carried out any further executions.

It is obvious that the internal situation in Myanmar is of great concern to the country and to ASEAN.

Additionally, the latest trend in the geopolitical landscape could add another layer of concern. The great powers continue to clash on the world stage both with political rhetoric and by flexing their military muscles.

As the world becomes entangled in more intense superpower competitions, internal parties in Myanmar seem to be choosing sides against each other. The Tatmadaw is getting closer and closer to China and Russia. While other ASEAN member states have a cautious attitude towards recent episodes of world events, Myanmar’s military authority openly supports Russia in the war in Ukraine and China in the Taiwan crisis. In return, the two great powers are among the few remaining countries that have openly and actively worked with Myanmar’s military, from military to economic engagements. Additionally, reports accuse China and Russia of supplying weapons to the Tatmadaw.

As for the NUG, for months now the shadow government has been making efforts for international recognition. It is frequently observed that the NUG “foreign minister” and other officials have interacted with the West. Unfortunately, this group so far receives only moral support from the United States and its allies. We often see that the United States and others have called for more pressure on the Myanmar military, but that doesn’t go any further. In the United States, some scholars have called on Washington to push the NUG – including the provision of military assistance – in the circumstance that this civilian-led group is more inclusive with various ethnic groups and has a clear political track record. .

Major powers have made efforts to discuss ways to help Myanmar return to normal. Last month, the US State Department said the United States had raised the issue of Myanmar with China as well as with US allies and other partners.

However, these efforts have encountered challenges, one of which is uncertainty over current international politics. Right after US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August, China suspended much of its cooperation with the United States. The point here is that if geopolitical competition were to intensify further in the near future, it would not only aggravate the current state of crisis, but the result would be very tragic. Some even suggest that Myanmar could become a new proxy warfront in the region, similar to the Cold War era.

The current geopolitical landscape adds another complexity to the Myanmar crisis. This situation is worrying as it would have a negative impact on the current situation on the ground in Myanmar, in particular on the prospect of reaching comprehensive political settlements to bring the country back to normal. The international community, especially ASEAN, should find and implement ways to operationalize FP5 to help save lives in Myanmar and prevent this already man-made tragedy from turning into a long-lasting war. which sees no end.

Him Rotha is a researcher at the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP). The opinions expressed are his own and do not represent those of his affiliation.

Sharon D. Cole