Two years after the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) agreed on a roadmap to restore normalcy in violence-torn Myanmar, nothing has moved forward.

The generals continued to renege on their commitment to the “five consensus points” agreed in Jakarta in April 2021, months after a coup that toppled the civilian government of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

The situation in Myanmar remained the biggest challenge to Asean’s credibility as a regional bloc.

It’s about time Asean took a bolder step to resolve the political crisis in its own backyard and gain the respect of the international community.

Myanmar has embarrassed Asean but the regional bloc has been treating the generals with kids gloves.

However, Asean needs the cooperation of its dialogue partners to deal with the generals.

If there are countries that continue to trade and engage with Myanmar, no amount of economic and political sanctions will work to force the generals to institute reforms and return to the path of democracy.

Western countries had slapped sanctions but China, Russia, and some Southeast Asian countries continued to support the generals.

The entire international community must work together to isolate Myanmar if it wants the political situation to improve, as well as the human rights conditions of minorities, like the Rohingyas.

China, Russia and other countries that support the generals must tighten the noose on Myanmar, shutting them from the global arms trade and cutting off international trade to deny revenues to buy weapons.

Asean is different from the European Union or from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), it cannot send peacekeeping troops to a member-state to restore political normalcy.

But it can, perhaps, do some other things to pressure the generals to reverse their repressive policies and end the bloody crackdown that had resulted in more than 2,000 deaths and the execution of two opposition leaders.

Asean must be united in its stand on Myanmar. Asean must take a harder stance in dealing with the generals.

In the past, Asean pursued quiet diplomacy and low-key dialogue with the generals to nudge them to implement political reforms.

In 1997, Asean gambled by accepting Myanmar as a member along with Laos. Two years later, Cambodia joined the grouping, completing the 10-member regional bloc.

Although the Philippines and Thailand were reluctant to accept Myanmar, the two countries agreed with the rest of the regional bloc in the spirit of unity and cohesion.

The gamble paid off because the generals gave in and allowed free and democratic elections that saw the rise of Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League of Democracy (NLD) to power.

The NLD won 43 out of 45 contested seats in the 2012 by-elections to fill up vacancies in both the upper and lower houses of its parliament.

In 2015, the NLD won a supermajority in parliamentary elections and, for the first time, a civilian president was in power since 1962.

The democratic space was, however, short-lived as the generals seized state power again in February 2021.

Asean has been finding ways to restore democracy in Myanmar but it has been unsuccessful.

Last week, Asean foreign ministers met in Jakarta but struggled to come up with a common text on a joint communique on Myanmar’s political situation.

Asean’s experience in Myanmar has been frustrating but it continues to struggle to find a solution to the biggest internal problem that has tarnished its reputation and credibility.

The only way for Asean to regain its credibility is to take a stronger stand together against Myanmar. Unity is the key in any Asean action against Myanmar.

It has to seek cooperation with other dialogue partners to isolate Myanmar and put pressure on its generals to end the political crisis.

For the longest time, Myanmar has been an embarrassment for Asean. It’s about time Asean took a cohesive and bolder action to discipline its member-state.