Like “crab meets a frog,” Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh is almost “defeated” amid the violent upheaval caused by the military coup in Myanmar. The useless speech of the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister read from Hanoi on March 2, did not mention the hot situations in the capital Naypyidaw and in most major cities of Myanmar.
Mr. Minh only made a formal statement, making a general mention of “violence and tension in Myanmar,” not clearly stating who the perpetrators of the violence and what should be done to reduce the current tension. Mr. Minh also did not have any specific proposals, even dared not to harmonize with the democratic and progressive trends of members from island countries such as Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia.
The three island countries mentioned above strongly condemned the Feb 1 military coup in Naypyitaw with clear arguments. The harsh criticism of the island nations came at the right time and with international support, reflecting the three countries’ cross-cutting political visions for the current state and future of Myanmar.
Indonesia has proved to be the bloc’s elder country, and its Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi is the only woman among her ASEAN colleagues. The female secretary of state emphasized the importance of the Myanmar issue to the bloc’s diplomatic legacy. Through her shuttle diplomacy, Ms. Retno Marsudi created a space for dialogue, although the result was only to agree to discuss Myanmar, the parties still kept their opinion. Singapore still stands out for the role of the fender in the process of setting the entire bloc’s trajectory. Both Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Foreign Minister Vivien Balakrishnan have built and maintained their stance against the Myanmar military leadership and have won much praise thanks to the democratic aspirations of the island nation “little pepper.”
Malaysia urged ASEAN to respond more strongly to the coup in Myanmar. Foreign Minister Hishamuddin Hussein made quite a few proposals for ASEAN and Myanmar reference, including the establishment of a “Troika ASEAN” on the situation in Myanmar. Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia all want to see the UN play a leading role through their special envoy, Christine Schraner Burgener. The special envoy is a good “connection,” as she is allowed to enter Myanmar to meet all stakeholders. She could also convey messages from the three countries calling for the release of those held in the coup.
Why is Vietnam silent?
Certainly, Vietnam has many reasons to take a stance trying to avoid declaring anything major, provoking too much domestic and international attention to the Myanmar situation. There was even a humorous comment on the media saying that the Myanmar army wished to have power as the Vietnamese armed forces have (they sent thousands of soldiers to attack and kill residents at night but domestic and international did not dare to react).
Meanwhile, many people wish when the Vietnamese people will be enlightened like the Burmese people, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets since the beginning of the month until now, but the protests against the militants have not shown signs of retreat. After Hongkong, now it’s the Burmese people’s turn to go to the streets like that … how can we tell Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh dare to support the protests and demand the release of civilian government leaders, the sentence of an anti-democratic coup in Myanmar?
It is said that the February 1 coup had the backing of China, which was unhappy to see Myanmar, or any other neighboring state, move forward on the path of democracy and inched away from its influence. Moreover, this is also a “test” of Beijing against the new US government, along with many other “tests” on the East Sea (South China Sea), the East China Sea, and Taiwan. If this is the “script” of China, the more secretive the Vietnamese Foreign Ministry is, the better.
Anyway, public opinion still believes that the path of Myanmar’s democratization, despite being bumpy, when going backward, but at least the Myanmar people are still lucky, because they maintain the most honesty, kindness, and determined not to bow to the foreign countries. According to the BBC, many people who have visited Myanmar commented like that.
Myanmar is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country, but most of it is still Buddhism, in their way of life is imbued with the thought of Buddha. Although Myanmar society has also experienced an iron dictatorship, luckily, it is not destroyed by a kind of communism to the root of culture, social ethics, and benevolence. people to family relationships, discipline, law, etc. like China, Vietnam, and North Korea. Rebuilding from scratch on such a human, social background is somewhat better.
Up to now, March 4 is the bloodiest day in Myanmar: At least 38 protesters were killed. The latest riots come a day after Myanmar’s neighbors urged the military to restrain. Never before has the “central” role of ASEAN been so ridiculed by totalitarian states like Myanmar and Vietnam. However, the coup and the use of violence to suppress the protests will continue to be condemned internationally, although the Myanmar military has so far ignored it.
In response to the deadly shoots on March 4, the UK called for a meeting of the US Security Council on Friday, while the US said it was considering a further adaptive action with the Myanmar army. So from the outside, the world probably won’t let Myanmar, whether Vietnam speaks up or stays quiet.
Unfortunately, the spirit of “cohesion and proactively adaptive” – arguably the speech breakthrough in Vietnam’s foreign politics in 2020 – proved not to be a breakthrough, even completely overshadowed at the meeting of foreign ministers of 10 ASEAN member countries on March 2, 2021.