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Myanmar crisis now or never moment for ASEAN

SINGAPORE – More than a month on from a democracy-suspending military coup in Myanmar, many see the junta’s increasingly violent crackdown on dissent as approaching a point of no return. As the United States and others press for tougher sanctions on the junta’s leaders, Southeast Asian nations are under pressure to intervene to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

With its credibility on the line after past failures to tackle human rights crises in the region, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is still widely seen as the best hope for a diplomatic solution amid uncharacteristic outspokenness from some of its member states who are pushing to build a regional consensus on the need for Myanmar to return to democracy.

But the grouping isn’t speaking with one voice, with some of its members describing the putsch as an internal matter, consistent with the bloc’s long-held tradition of non-interference in members’ domestic affairs. Moreover, the organization’s diplomatic efforts have been met with skepticism by those protesting across Myanmar who are staunchly opposed to any engagement that would confer legitimacy onto Naypyidaw’s generals.