By Kate Lamb

JAKARTA (Reuters) – Indonesia, working on behalf of southeast Asian nations, has little to show so far for its intense behind-the-scenes efforts to bridge gaps between factions in Myanmar’s conflict, diplomatic sources say.

Myanmar has been racked by violence since 2021, when the military seized power from a largely elected government and unleashed a deadly crackdown on opponents.

Amid scepticism over the bloc’s credibility on the issue, Indonesia, as this year’s chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), has conducted a whirlwind of more than 100 contacts with factions with the aim of paving the way for at least informal talks.

But the junta, an opposition “shadow government” and rebel militias all refuse to compromise on their respective conditions to start even informal talks, said three sources, including two diplomats, familiar with the matter.

The sources declined to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.

Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG) has said it will join talks only if the junta agrees to scrap the 2008 constitution, which provides the legal basis for a military role in government, and to release political prisoners.

Any talks with the junta would “have to agree in principle that the people of Myanmar do not want a military dictatorship anymore”, said Sasa, who conducts international affairs for the NUG and goes by one name.

The junta, for its part, has made acceptance of the 2008 constitution a precondition of meeting with the opposition, the sources said. The junta did not respond to requests for comment.


Two diplomatic sources said representatives from the NUG and ethnic-based militias have already met three times this year in Indonesia’s resort island of Bali.

Sasa said he could not confirm if the Bali meetings had taken place, but called for even deeper engagement with ASEAN.

The sources said Indonesia had drawn inspiration from its “cocktail diplomacy” of the late 1980s, when it convinced Cambodia’s four opposing factions to meet for informal talks near Jakarta.

But with Myanmar’s junta still declining to engage with other factions, questions have been raised about the effectiveness of Indonesia’s approach.

“If you simply engage in talking without actually coming up with something, everyone will say this quiet diplomacy and engagement is actually nothing,” said Lina Alexandra of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta.

Indonesia’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

At an ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting on Wednesday, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi urged the bloc to remain united and committed to implementing a five-point peace consensus that calls for an end to violence.

(Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor and Kevin Liffey)

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