Widodo Asks ASEAN to Resolve Rakhine State Issues
President Jokowi Widodo met Thai Minister of Foreign Affairs to discuss the issue of Rakhine State. Photo by State Palace.

JAKARTA (TheInsiderStories) – In the meeting with Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai at Merdeka Palace, Jakarta, on March 13, President Joko Widodo conveyed the importance of the Association of South East Asia Nations (ASEAN) cooperation related to the Rakhine State issues. This was said by Widodo because Thailand was also the chairman of the organization.

“Regarding the Rakhine state issue, the President conveyed once again that the importance of ASEAN involvement in helping Myanmar in preparing for voluntary, peaceful and dignified repatriation,” said Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi after the meeting.

She explained, ASEAN has deployed a preliminary team from March 4-13 followed the ASEAN Summit results in Singapore on November 2018. At the meeting, Indonesia took the initiative and responded with other ASEAN countries to solve the issue.

Reportedly, Indonesia submitted a proposal to resolve the Rakhine case known as “formula 4 + 1 for Rakhine”. The four proposals are to restore security stability, hold back to the maximum not to use violence, provide protection to everyone in Rakhine regardless of ethnic and religious background, and open access to humanitarian assistance.

Thailand will encourage the Myanmar government to form an implementation committee and advisory body to oversee the implementation of the recommendations. The recommendation echoed the 2014 United Nations (UN) call to welcome political and economic reforms in Myanmar, but at the same time expressed “serious concern” about the Rohingya-Moslem crisis.

The UN at that time demanded “equal access to obtain citizenship for all Rohingya minority groups” and ensure equal access for this group to obtain public services.

In addition, Widodo also called for Indonesia’ vision for the Indo-Pacific, a call for ASEAN to be more united. At present, the ASEAN blocks is indeed carrying out ongoing discussions about a shared vision for the Indo-Pacific, when the world’ two largest economies in the world, United States (US) and China, offered conflicting ideas for their involvement in the region.

Indonesia wants an Indo-Pacific “regional architecture” similar to “ASEAN’ ecosystem of peace, stability, and prosperity”, which will utilize an ASEAN-led mechanism and is based on the principles of inclusion, trust building, and international law.

This Indonesian government proposal was inaugurated at the ASEAN foreign ministers meeting in January. Indonesia views the Asia-Pacific region and the Indian Ocean as closely integrated and interrelated, describing it as a single geo-strategic theater.

This concept emphasizes shared interests such as development and prosperity, cooperation in maritime affairs, regional connectivity, and in achieving the UN’s global sustainable development goals. This also relevant after the views of competing US and China in the Indo-Pacific overflowed at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Papua New Guinea last November 2018.

Chinese President Xi Jinping sought to fend off criticism of the trillions of US dollars, Belt and Road Initiative global development programs, rejecting suggestions that the initiative creates a far-reaching “debt trap” for poor countries and instead promotes it as a transparent program and ” open platform for cooperation. ”

US Vice President Mike Pence, meanwhile, urged governments in Asia to join the American Indo-Pacific strategy, which is supported by Australia and Japan and plans to prioritize infrastructure development.

But the Indo-Pacific under US or China is unsustainable and will face resistance. The next multi-polarity and fracture-split in this region is also not a good and effective start.

Therefore, the Indo-Pacific Outlook proposed by Indonesia is an alternative regional order that is expected to accommodate all interests, and even solve problems among countries. Therefore, Indonesia continues to encourage the cooperation of ASEAN countries to unite.

The Indo-Pacific views agreed upon by ASEAN might intersect with more urgent short-term challenges in the region. But in the long term, this vision is the most inclusive and workable alternative that can stabilize the balance of regional power.

Written by Lexy Nantu, Email: lexy@theinsiderstories.com