Singapore minister pessimistic on Myanmar, says resolution may take time

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Singapore's Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan speaks at the 15th ASEAN Lecture on "ASEAN: Next 50" at ISEAS Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore's foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan has called the situation in Myanmar "an unfolding tragedy" that will take time to overcome, and said it was essential for Southeast Asian countries to have a position on how to respond.

"It is going to take quite some time to resolve. I must confess to you that I am pessimistic," Balakrishnan told local media, according to a transcript released on Monday.

Balakrishnan has spoken strongly over the Myanmar military's Feb 1 coup and its deadly crackdown on demonstrators and has been pushing for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to play a role in finding a way out of the crisis.

He spoke to local media on Friday after meeting with Indonesian leaders in Jakarta. He had also visited Malaysia and ASEAN chair Brunei earlier in the week.

ASEAN operates by consensus but the divergent views of its 10 members on how to respond to the army's use of lethal force against civilians and the group's policy of non-interference in each others' affairs has limited its ability to act.

Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines have pushed for an urgent high-level meeting on Myanmar and have condemned the crackdown, which has killed 462 people, according to activists. Singapore said it supports such a meeting.

"It is essential for ASEAN's credibility, centrality and relevance to have a view, have a position and to be able to offer some constructive assistance to Myanmar," Balakrishnan said. "But do not expect quick solutions."

Balakrishnan also said it was "essential for ASEAN to consider, to contemplate, to support and to be a constructive presence inside Myanmar. He said he hoped Myanmar would take into consideration the views of ASEAN leaders.

(Reporting by Aradhana Aravindan; Editing by Martin Petty)