Myanmar junta chief excluded from ASEAN summit

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Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

Myanmar’s junta chief will be excluded from an upcoming ASEAN summit, the group said Saturday, a rare rebuke as concerns rise over the military government’s commitment to defusing a bloody crisis.

Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed at an emergency meeting late Friday that a “non-political representative” for Myanmar would be invited to the October 26-28 summit, current ASEAN chair Brunei said in a statement.
The decision effectively excluded junta leader Min Aung Hlaing.

The Myanmar junta slammed the decision on Saturday evening, accusing ASEAN of breaching the bloc’s policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of its member states.

“We can also see the interference from the other (non-ASEAN) countries,” junta spokesman brigadier general Zaw Min Tun told the BBC Burmese section.

He seized on talks between the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken and ASEAN special envoy, Brunei’s Second Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof, ahead of the meeting and also singled out EU pressure.

The bloc, widely criticised as a toothless organisation, took a strong stand after the junta rebuffed requests that a special envoy meet with “with all stakeholders” in Myanmar—a phrase seen to include ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The statement noted “insufficient progress” in the implementation of a five-point plan agreed by ASEAN leaders in April to end turmoil following a coup in February.

It also said that the situation in Myanmar “was having an impact on regional security as well as the unity, credibility and centrality of ASEAN”.

Richard Horsey, Myanmar adviser to Crisis Group, predicted the “non-political” representative would be someone below the level of minister or deputy minister.

Singapore’s foreign ministry described the move as a “difficult but necessary decision to uphold ASEAN’s credibility”.

Mustafa Izzuddin, global affairs analyst at consultancy Solaris Strategies Singapore, called the exclusion “a political stopgap measure for ASEAN to assuage international criticism”.

It sent a “political signal” to the junta “that ASEAN is not one to be pushed around”, Izzuddin added.

And independent Myanmar analyst David Mathieson said that “in ASEAN terms this is a real slap in the face”.—APP

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