Indonesia’s president says an attack on humanitarian workers in Myanmar’s eastern Shan state won’t deter his country in its efforts as this year’s ASEAN chair to try to bring peace to Myanmar.
Joko Widodo, commonly known as Jokowi, was speaking in the Indonesian town of Labuan Bajo ahead of a three-day summit of the 10-member grouping which starts Tuesday.
He confirmed that members of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) came under fire from an unknown group as they were “delivering humanitarian assistance” on Sunday but said “the shooting got in the way.”
“This will not diminish ASEAN’s and Indonesia’s determination to call for an end to the use of force and violence. Stop the violence because civilians have become victims. Let us sit together and start a dialogue,” Jokowi said.
Locals told RFA the convoy was also carrying officials from the Indonesia and Singapore embassies in Yangon.
It came under fire on Sunday morning on a road through Hsihseng township, according to residents who didn’t want to be named for safety reasons.
They said the convoy was heading to the Hsihseng-based Pa-O National Liberation Army (PNLO) Liaison Office to discuss assistance for internally displaced persons (IDPs) but was forced to turn back.
Along with two officers from the Embassy of Singapore and two from the Embassy of Indonesia, there were three AHA Centre officials and several junta administrative workers, the locals said.
The Pa-O National Organization (PNO), which is allied to Myanmar’s military regime, and the junta both have checkpoints near the scene of the shooting.
A PNO military affairs official who did not want to be named for security reasons, told RFA the shooting was carried out by five members of the Pa-O National Liberation Army, which is fighting for a democratic federal union system in Myanmar.
“They were caught by the army when they fired and tried to run away,” said the official.
“The incident happened in our PNO-controlled area. They invaded it and started shooting although there was no problem. I don’t know why they shot.”
He said no one was injured although vehicle windows were smashed by bullets.
RFA’s calls to the PNLO went unanswered Monday, however an official close to the organization who also declined to be named told RFA the PNLO would not have carried out the shooting.
“The PNLO is working to help IDPs,” he said.
“Now they are calling for foreign diplomats and officials from the aid group to meet up to [discuss] that issue. It is impossible that the PNLO shot [the convoy].”
Calls to the junta spokesperson for Shan state, Khun Thein Maung, went unanswered.
RFA also called and emailed the embassies of Singapore and Indonesia in Yangon regarding the incident but received no reply
The conflict in Myanmar is likely to be one of the main topics of the ASEAN Summit but junta leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing has not been invited to attend.
However, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said Friday her country has been quietly engaging with the State Administration Council – as the junta regime is formally known – along with Myanmar’s parallel National Unity Government and Ethnic Armed Organizations in its role as ASEAN chair this year.
She said the more than 60 engagements this year, which also included talks with the European Union, Japan, the United Nations and the United States, aimed to build trust “with non-megaphone diplomacy.”
Referring to ASEAN’s five-point plan – agreed to by the junta in April 2021 and subsequently ignored by the country’s military leaders – President Widodo said Monday the 10-member group may struggle to get buy-in from the junta but he wasn’t giving up hope.
“The situation in Myanmar is complex and Indonesia continues to push for the implementation of the five-point consensus. Various efforts have been made,” Jokowi said.
Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.
Ahmad Syamsudin in Labuan Bajo contributed to this report.
BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated news service.