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March 30, 2021, 01.54 PM - The events in Myanmar pose a challenge to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is struggling to decide whether to stick to its principle of non-interference in members' internal affairs or not.

After Myanmar's military dislodged the civilian government in a coup and took over power on February 1, nationwide protests and a mass campaign of civil disobedience ensued against the junta.

The military has carried out a brutal clampdown on the protesters.

As of March 26, 164 demonstrators had been killed, according to official figures. But as per data provided by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), over 300 people had lost their lives.

Also readMyanmar Junta Frees 600 People Held for Anti-Coup Protests

There is no end in sight to the crisis, which poses several challenges for the ASEAN, a regional alliance.

Writing in the Bangkok Post, Thai political expert Thitinan Pongsudhirak even calls it an "existential crisis" for the grouping.

ASEAN's diplomacy and reputation put to the test

First, the diplomatic weight of the alliance is at stake. It would be a serious blow to ASEAN's importance if, for instance, the United States were to cancel its participation in the next East Asia Summit or ASEAN summit because it was not prepared to sit at the same table with Myanmar's generals.

Second, the reputation of the alliance is suffering. Images of nationwide mass demonstrations against the military regime and of demonstrators being killed and wounded are being circulated around the world. This is also tarnishing ASEAN's image. The bloc is already accused of not taking its own human rights charter seriously.


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