Longview: Understanding Indonesia’s influence in encouraging Myanmar’s conflict resolution

Tension in Myanmar rapidly escalated since the detainment of Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Mynt, and other government officials. Many have urged Indonesia to take action regarding this matter, as Indonesia presents as an example of a democratic transition from its 1998 reformation. There are political aspects in Indonesia and Myanmar that are observed to be similar. The political involvement of military force characterized Myanmar and Indonesia’s New Order era. Another notable similarity between Indonesia and Myanmar is that both countries have vast ethnic diversity, with one dominating ethnic group. Both governments, however, have been able to neutralize ethnic conflicts and unify each nation. However, democratization in Myanmar following Ne-Win’s end of rule in 1988 and Indonesia’s transition to the Reformation era (1998 – present) yields different progress. The level of power monopoly is lower in Indonesia than in Myanmar, which arguably may give Indonesia an advantage in democratization. 

Indonesia’s transition has been an example for Myanmar

Indonesia’s transition has been an example for Myanmar. Indonesia’s sixth President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, often shares Indonesia’s experience in democratic transition, making the country a powerful “influencer” when dealing with international affairs. Mr Yudhoyono has provided advice to the Myanmar military following Myanmar’s 2011 plans for democratic reforms. While Indonesia’s diplomatic involvement with Myanmar’s conflicts may not be as intense as it was under President Yudhoyono, the nation remains to express the need for Myanmar’s government to rule under democratic principles. Note that both Indonesia and Myanmar remain to be a flawed democracies up until today. In fact, under current President Joko Widodo, Indonesia has faced a degree of democratic backsliding due to a decline in freedom of speech. However, when examined closely, Indonesia’s transition to democracy has more progress compared to Myanmar; scoring 59/100 in the Freedom House Index compared to Myanmar’s score of 26/100. Indonesia’s democratic regime is not perfect, but it is arguably more democratic compared to neighboring countries. Hence, experts have believed Indonesia to have more influence and the potential to influence the ASEAN community to act on Myanmar’s conflict

With Indonesia being the third largest democracy and relatively the most democratic among ASEAN nations, the nation is inevitably central in encouraging intervention from Myanmar’s neighboring countries

Following the military coup in Myanmar, President Joko Widodo’s shared an agreement with Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin to instruct their Foreign Ministers to discuss with Brunei, the 2021 chair to ASEAN. Indonesian Foreign Minister, Retno Marsudi, flew to Brunei, in order to set a meeting to discuss Myanmar’s political affairs. Indonesia Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has also agreed that the ASEAN community is the ideal mechanism to help Myanmar. Officials have said ASEAN approach is more efficient as member countries will have a more ‘family’ approach. With Indonesia being the third largest democracy and relatively the most democratic among ASEAN nations, the nation is inevitably central in encouraging intervention from Myanmar’s neighboring countries. But the extra pressure from international communities consequently gives more pressure for Indonesia to be the central influence in encouraging assistance to Myanmar’s conflict resolution. 

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi have urged Myanmar’s Foreign Minister to facilitate ‘inclusive democratic transition’ during a meeting in Bangkok. However, progress remains stagnant. At this stage, there is not much that Indonesia could further do. Indonesia arguably has the sense of responsibility to help Myanmar making a successful transition to democracy, especially with their historical background and position among the South East Asian countries. This consequently encourages the nation to place itself as the leading diplomatic broker. 

The Editor: Medina Rahma Putri

Medina Rahma Putri is a final year Philosophy, Politics, and Economics undergraduate at King’s College London. She is currently the Secretary General of the Indonesian Student Association in London, as she is passionate about education and student experience. She is also a researcher for King’s Think Tank – Technology & Innovation Policy Centre, Europe’s largest student-led policy institute. She several published articles for The Jakarta Post reporting topics from art conservation to organisations striving for equal literature accessibility

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