April 2021 ASEAN meeting
Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) meet in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 24, 2021, in the first coordinated international effort to ease the crisis in Myanmar. (Courtesy President Secretariat)

JAKARTA, INDONESIA - Indonesian President Joko Widodo called for the creation of an ASEAN special envoy to Myanmar to engage with all parties in the crisis-torn country during a gathering Saturday of Southeast Asian leaders in Jakarta.
 
The president, who is commonly known as Jokowi, said the leaders had reached a consensus on Myanmar that would be announced by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations secretary general. He also called for aid channels to be open and for Myanmar to release all political prisoners.
 
Jokowi was speaking after the 10-member bloc's crisis meeting on Myanmar, aimed at persuading Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who led the military takeover in February that sparked turmoil in his country, to forge a path to end the violence.  
 
The gathering is the first coordinated international effort to ease the crisis in Myanmar, an impoverished country that neighbors China, India and Thailand. Myanmar is part of the 10-nation ASEAN.
 
With participants attending in person despite the pandemic, Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said on Friday that the summit reflected the "deep concern about the situation in Myanmar and ASEAN's determination to help Myanmar get out of this delicate situation."
 
"We hope that tomorrow's [summit] will reach an agreement regarding steps that are good for the people of Myanmar," she said.

In this photo released by Indonesian Presidential Palace, Myanmar's Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, left, is greeted by an unidentified Indonesian official upon arrival at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Indonesia, April 24, 2021.

It's unusual for the leader of a military government in Myanmar to attend an ASEAN summit - usually the country has been represented by a lower-ranked officer or a civilian. Min Aung Hlaing was seen disembarking after arriving on a special flight from Naypyitaw, the Myanmar capital, according to footage on the official video channel of Indonesia's presidential palace.
 
Diplomats and government officials who asked not to be named said many ASEAN leaders want a commitment from Min Aung Hlaing to restrain his security forces, who monitors say have killed 745 people since a mass civil disobedience movement emerged to challenge his Feb. 1 coup against the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
 
"This is what Myanmar must avoid: geographical, political, social and national disintegration into warring ethnic parts," said Philippines Foreign Secretary Teddy Locsin on Twitter. "Myanmar on its own must find peace again."
 
ASEAN has a policy of consensus decision-making and non-interference in the affairs of its members, which include Myanmar.

Police block demonstrators near the ASEAN Secretariat, site of the summit, in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 24, 2021. (Ahadian/VOA Jakarta). Hundreds of activists, many on bikes, protested the presence of Myanmar's General Min Aung Hlaing in Jakarta.

While that makes it difficult to tackle contentious issues, the body is seen by the United Nations, China and the United States as best placed to deal with the junta directly.
 
The summit, called for by Widodo last month, is a departure from the tightly choreographed leaders' meetings that are typical of ASEAN, said Evan Laksmana, a Jakarta-based security analyst.
 
"There is no precedent, especially given the expressed intent to discuss the problems of one member state."
 
A spokesman for the opposition National Unity Government, which is not attending the summit, told Reuters the group had "been in contact with ASEAN leaders."
 
Dr. Sasa, an international envoy for the NUG, who goes by one name, said ASEAN should insist the military stops killing civilians, halts the bombing of villages in ethnic minority areas, releases political prisoners and hands power to the NUG.