The popular resistance to the Myanmar military coup is looking increasingly like a tragedy waiting to happen. At least two people have already lost their lives in shooting incidents as tens of thousands of protesters swarmed the streets of the Southeast Asian country. The generals have issued a warning that leaves little to the imagination about what will happen if protesters continue, in their words, “inciting the people, especially emotional teenagers and youths, to a confrontation path where they will suffer the loss of life”. The military, which ran Myanmar for 50 years until 2011, has a reputation for not giving any ground to domestic sentiment or external pressure. It would not be in keeping with this for the generals to yield an inch to demands for the release of detained democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the restoration of her government overthrown on February 1. Further escalation of the confrontation is therefore fraught with danger and poses an urgent challenge to the international community, which has so far found its concerns ignored. Myanmar belongs to the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Asean is at once part of the problem and part of the solution. Its principle of non-interference in members’ affairs reflects the limits of diplomacy, but compliance with it does no harm to the moral authority of backchannel efforts to open up consensual engagement, rein in violence and amplify the generals’ promise to hold elections. In that regard, Indonesia is reported to have been lobbying fellow Asean members and Beijing has confirmed that its foreign minister, Wang Yi, has had phone conversations with his counterparts in Jakarta and Brunei. Wider involvement of foreign ministers cannot be ruled out. If Asean cannot form a strong consensus as a basis for communicating with Myanmar, it will not only be an invitation for big powers such as the United States or China to involve themselves, but it will do nothing for Asean’s own development. The major powers should signal strong support for Asean and leave room for its members to resolve the crisis.