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PHNOM PENH: The United Nations welcomes ASEAN’s “principled approach” to the conflict in Myanmar and believes that next year’s ASEAN chair, Indonesia, will be able to advance the agenda on this, secretary-general Antonio Guterres has said.

Mr Guterres made the remarks in Phnom Penh at a UN-ASEAN Summit held on Friday (Nov 11) evening and spoke again at a press conference on Saturday morning.

He said that the situation in Myanmar is an “unending nightmare for the people of the country”, and voiced support for a 15-point statement made by leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on the Myanmar crisis.

The ASEAN leaders meeting at the summit, the first to be held in-person in three years, had asked for more concrete steps and a “specific timeline” to support a Five-Point Consensus that calls for a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Myanmar.

ASEAN is also going to further review Myanmar’s representation at future meetings. The country’s political leaders have been barred from high-level meetings of the bloc since late last year.

“I welcome ASEAN’s principled approach through the Five-Point Consensus … I urge all countries, including ASEAN members, to seek a unified strategy towards Myanmar, centred on the needs and aspirations of Myanmar’s people,” said Mr Guterres.

While ASEAN leaders, including Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, had agreed to the Five-Point Consensus in April 2021, Myanmar’s junta has largely ignored it.

The peace plan calls for an immediate cessation of violence, and dialogues among key stakeholders in the conflict.

An ASEAN special envoy to facilitate mediation has been appointed and it allows ASEAN to provide humanitarian assistance to people in Myanmar.

Since the pact, however, violence in Myanmar has not abated. Four political activists were executed, thousands of dissidents have been killed and tens of thousands of political opponents have been jailed.

Deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi is serving 26 years in jail on multiple charges of graft and election fraud.

ASEAN leaders acknowledged in Friday’s statement that “little progress” has been made in its implementation.

When asked by a CNA correspondent how ASEAN’s 15-point statement will make a difference in Myanmar, Mr Guterres said: “I believe the Indonesian government will be able to push forward the agenda in a positive way.

“And my special envoy is ready to fully cooperate with the ASEAN envoy in order to create conditions to establish, as I mentioned, democratic transition.”

He also said: “Everybody has failed in relation to Myanmar. The international community as a whole has failed, and the UN is part of the international community.”

Mr Guterres said the political, security, human rights and humanitarian situation in Myanmar is “sliding ever deeper into catastrophe”.

He called on the Myanmar authorities to release all political prisoners and urged ASEAN countries to provide protection and assistance to refugees from Myanmar.