Myanmar junta 'extremely upset' at leader's exclusion from ASEAN summit

Myanmar's junta chief Min Aung Hlaing presides over a military parade on Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw, Myanmar on March 27. (Photo: CNN)

Myanmar's military junta expressed "extremely disappointed" with Southeast Asian foreign ministers' decision to ban Myanmar's leader Min Aung Hlaing from an upcoming summit.

According to a statement released by Brunei, the current ASEAN chair, the decision to ban Min Aung Hlaing from the October 26-28 summit was made during an emergency meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Brunei said in a statement that if a political representation from Myanmar could not be found, a non-political individual from Myanmar would be invited to the summit.

Brunei's Foreign Minister also expressed "insufficient progress" over the military's resolve to develop a productive dialogue among all parties concerned, citing "concerns" about a path to restore peace not Myanmar that the junta had committed to with ASEAN in April.

The statement stated that "Some ASEAN member states recommended that ASEAN give space to Myanmar to restore its internal affairs and return to normalcy,"

Myanmar's military-run foreign ministry responded by saying it was "extremely disappointed" and "strongly objected" to the country's exclusion from the meeting.

"The discussions and decision on Myanmar's representation issue was done without consensus and was against the objectives of ASEAN," the foreign ministry stated.

"Ignoring the ASEAN's good traditions of fostering unity in diversity and resolving differences through consultations and consensus would greatly affect the unity and centrality of the ASEAN," it continued.

The decision was attributed to "foreign intervention" by a spokesman for Myanmar's military government.

According to Singapore's foreign minister, the omission of Myanmar's junta was a "difficult but necessary decision" to maintain ASEAN's credibility.

"Singapore urges the Myanmar military authorities to cooperate with the special envoy to swiftly and fully implement the five-point consensus," the ministry stated.

ASEAN's decision to exclude Myanmar's junta is a rare bold move for the consensus-driven organization, historically advocating engagement and non-interference policies.

It's also a rare blow to Min Aung Hlaing, who launched a coup against an elected civilian government in February and jailed Aung San Suu Kyi, the country's de facto leader, over alleged election irregularities.

According to the United Nations, Myanmar security forces have killed over 1,000 civilians and jailed thousands more during a crackdown on strikes and protests that has thrown the country's fledgling democracy into disarray and drawn international condemnation.

According to the junta, those death toll estimates are inflated.
Min Aung Hlaing, the newly constituted caretaker government's Prime Minister, took office in August. He reiterated his commitment to hold elections by 2023 in a speech on August 1 and stated his administration was prepared to engage with a future regional envoy on Myanmar.

'Justified downgrade' 

ASEAN has come under increasing international pressure to take a harsher stance against Myanmar after being chastised in the past for failing to deal effectively with officials accused of human rights violations, eroding democracy, and intimidating political opponents.

According to a US State Department official, ASEAN's decision to downgrade Myanmar's participation in the upcoming summit was "perfectly appropriate and in fact completely justified."

According to a statement released by Singapore, Myanmar should collaborate with ASEAN's representative, Brunei's second foreign affairs minister Erywan Yusof.

Erywan has asked to speak with all parties in Myanmar, including deposed leader Suu Kyi, and has postponed a long-planned visit to the nation in recent weeks.

Erywan will be welcome in Myanmar this week, according to Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun, but would not be allowed to meet Suu Kyi due to her criminal charges.

The Myanmar junta will choose an alternate representative to the conference, according to Malaysia's foreign minister.

"We never thought of removing Myanmar from ASEAN, we believe Myanmar has the same rights (as us)," foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah told reporters, according to the state news agency Bernama.

"But the junta has not cooperated, so ASEAN must be strong in defending its credibility and integrity," he added.

Publish : 2021-10-17 10:49:00

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