Malaysia, Indonesia seek ASEAN meeting to discuss Myanmar coup

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The leaders of Indonesia and Malaysia on Friday said they were seeking a special meeting of foreign ministers of Southeast Asian nations to discuss the situation in Myanmar, where an elected government was overthrown in a coup earlier this week.

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Throwing a wedge in Myanmar’s long and troubled transition to democracy, the military took power on Monday, citing alleged irregularities in a November election won in a landslide by the party of Aung San Suu Kyi.

After a meeting with visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, Indonesian President Joko Widodo said the two countries’ foreign ministers had been asked to talk to Brunei, the current chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to try to set up the special meeting on Myanmar.

Muhyiddin referred to the coup as being “one step backward in the process of democracy in that country”.

Such meetings are rare and arranging one could be a challenge, however, given ASEAN’s policy of non-interference in its members’ domestic issues and their contrasting responses to the army takeover.

In a statement issued earlier this week ASEAN, of which Myanmar is a member, said it had been watching developments in the country closely.

The leaders of Indonesia and Malaysia, the world’s top producers of palm oil, also reiterated their commitment to eradicating “discrimination” against palm oil.

Jokowi, as the Indonesian president is known, said in his address that it was “optimal” for the two countries to work together to fight against palm oil discrimination, while Muhyiddin said the anti-palm oil campaign in Europe did misrepresent the industry.

Reuters reported last month that Indonesia and Malaysia are looking to hire an advocacy firm to counter criticism against the edible oil.

Jokowi and Muhyiddin also said they will discuss further an agreement to allow official and business travel between their countries amid the coronavirus pandemic, and said the issue of Rohingya Muslims had been discussed.

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