KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah on Monday called on the Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) to act more urgently in its efforts to provide humanitarian assistance and spur a peace process in junta-ruled Myanmar.

The 10-nation bloc has been pushing Myanmar’s military rulers to follow a peace “consensus” they agreed to last year, with some member countries expressing disappointment over a lack of progress on the plan.

Myanmar has been trapped in a cycle of violence since the military overthrew an elected government last year and launched a bloody crackdown on protests and dissent.

Datuk Seri Saifuddin said he wrote to the Asean Secretary-General last Saturday to ask for updates on the situation in Myanmar, as he had yet to receive any reports from the bloc’s leadership since the grouping met in Cambodia last month.

“The Asean Secretariat must have a sense of urgency to look into what is actually happening in Myanmar,” he told reporters in Kuala Lumpur, adding that the bloc could not afford to wait until its next major summit in November.

“They (the Asean secretariat) must have a full-time team working on the conflict, otherwise people get killed in between all of our meetings… We must buck up.”

The Asean Secretariat in Jakarta did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

Mr Saifuddin also called on Asean countries to decide on whether they would continue to work with the junta in providing humanitarian assistance, as he said many aid agencies in Myanmar were unwilling to work with the military or organisations linked to it.

“Asean must decide – where do we stand?” Mr Saifuddin said. “Do we continue with the junta? Or do we work without the junta and support the people who we know are doing good work? These are big questions and we have to decide urgently.” REUTERS