Myanmar junta chief barred from summit
>>Myanmar’s junta chief will be excluded from an upcoming Asean summit, the group said yesterday, 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 on Friday that Min Aung Hlaing would not be invited to the Oct 26-28 summit, current Asean chair Brunei said.
The bloc, widely considered a toothless organisation, took a strong stand after the junta rebuffed requests for a special envoy to meet with all parties concerned — 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.
Some member states recommended giving “space to Myanmar to restore its internal affairs and return to normalcy”.
It was decided to invite a “non-political representative” from Myanmar to the summit, “while noting the reservations from the Myanmar representative”, the statement said.
Mustafa Izzuddin, an analyst at consultancy Solaris Strategies Singapore, called the exclusion “a political stopgap measure for Asean to assuage international criticism”.
“Second, it ensures its regional reputation as an organisation that can still play an active role in Southeast Asian affairs,” he said.
Myanmar, mostly ruled by the military since a 1962 coup, has been a thorn in Asean’s side since it joined in 1997. Elections in 2015 won by Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) Party ushered in the start of civilian rule — but this was cut short by the coup.
Asean has been under international pressure to address unrest that erupted after the putsch, including massive protests; renewed clashes between the military and ethnic rebel armies in border regions; and an economy spiralling into freefall.
The bloc has expressed disappointment at a lack of cooperation from the junta, which cracks down brutally on dissent. More than 1,000 civilians have been killed, according to local monitors. Part of the consensus was to allow a long-delayed visit by a special envoy, Brunei’s Second Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof.
Asean has insisted that he meets all parties concerned, but the junta rejected any proposed meetings with people on trial, among them Suu Kyi, who is facing charges including sedition and flouting coronavirus restrictions during last year’s polls.