“That alternative scenario might be one where the military does not completely capitulate, but feels itself under so much pressure that it starts looking for an exit strategy, or ‘off ramp’, which would save at least some of its face and some of its previous institutional role. Any such outcome would necessarily involve some concessions from the national unity government which it will not be at all happy to make, and in the ideal scenario I described, would not have to.
“But sometimes circumstances demand – as I found in dealing with the Khmer Rouge in negotiating the Cambodian peace plan a generation ago – that, if even more death and misery are to be avoided, one at least explore the possibility of mediated dialogue with those whose behaviour has been almost indescribably awful.”
The military said after seizing power on February 1 and detaining the leaders of the elected government that it would re-stage elections in a year. It alleged the November elections, in which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy was returned in a landslide, were fraudulent, a claim electoral officials and international observers have said has no substance.
A junta spokesman has since said the regime may prolong the current 12-month emergency rule for an additional year.
How effective the ASEAN summit will be in addressing the turmoil is yet to be seen but it already has one prominent absentee. Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who ascended to power via a military coup himself in 2014, is not going and will send his foreign minister instead.
Evans, one of Australia’s longest serving foreign ministers, said ASEAN was “the one organisation from which suspension really would trouble the generals”.
“At the leaders’ meeting […] there is at least some prospect that Myanmar’s suspension from the organisation will be, if not agreed, at least seriously floated, and this would do something to concentrate the generals’ minds on their present friendlessness,” he said.