Philippine Statement at the Informal ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting

02 March 2021

Regional and International Issues

As part of ASEAN, indeed as part of the civilized community of nations, we are deeply concerned about the recent developments in Myanmar.  We are cognizant of the Army’s role in preserving Myanmar’s territorial integrity and national security, ever under threat from those who wish to break her apart and feast on her dismembered parts.  I warned The Lady about that:  never to trust those who shattered countries like Libya.  But even so we equally recognize the unifying role of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in her country’s history and in its destiny. 

We have always stood by Myanmar’s side as it tried to fix its ethnic challenges; the worst ones clear legacies of reckless and opportunistic Western imperialism.  We have stood by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in particular; and defended her against calumnies from hypocrites in the West.  We have hit back hard at her pro-democracy and human rights critics—  not a single one of whom has done anything at all for democracy and human rights; let alone as much as she has at great risk to her life and with great loss in her life.  We worked hard to give Myanmar back the respect due a responsible member of the community of nations moving, in the face of great challenges, towards fuller democracy. This should not stop now.  Indeed, more than ever we should help all the more.  Our appeal is not from the outside but from inside what we claim is one family:  a family first of peoples and not of governments; feeling the hurt in one of its members. 

In the Philippines, we have a saying: the hurt of the small finger is felt by the whole body. Myanmar is not a small finger but a big part of the two hands that together make up the family of ASEAN 10. Our call is for the complete return to the previously existing state of affairs:  with respect to the preeminent role of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi; alongside the Army her father created for the protection of the people he led to freedom and the country he gave them at the cost of his life.  This is what is needed.  And the first step should be for the immediate release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and subsequent dialogue among the parties involved in their country’s destiny.  The rest of ASEAN must stand by Myanmar; ready to give what help it is asked by the people and government of Myanmar.

ASEAN Community Building and External Relations

Every step ASEAN actually takes can only be done together by consensus. And it must focus on ASEAN centrality. But central in what respect?

It must be a centrality for the good, such as for sovereign independence and for the peoples’ welfare and not their ill-treatment. When we voice our objection to external interference in internal affairs it is firm and clear-cut but never a blanket objection. There are times and circumstances that call, if not for intervention—which when done high handedly leads to chaos as in Libya and Syria. These times call for a vocal, polite but firm and clear intervention in the form of a united appeal to the better angels of human nature; rather than to the baser instincts of the human race; like the instinct for naked power. We are better than that.