Myanmar's Junta boycotts ASEAN in protest of the exclusion of its leader, who was banned 9 months after a bloody coup

Commander-in-Chief of Myanmar's armed forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing. (Reuters)

Myanmar's junta canceled a Southeast Asian conference on Tuesday after its leader was barred from attending, escalating the regime's isolation nine months after a deadly takeover.

The virtual meeting marked the start of three days of meetings held by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), including US President Joe Biden and Chinese and Russian leaders.

At Tuesday's regional leaders ' meeting, Myanmar was at the top of the agenda, with the country mired in upheaval following the military takeover in February and the accompanying violent crackdown on dissent.

Faced with pleas to defuse the crisis, ASEAN — which includes Myanmar — has drafted a roadmap to restore peace, but the junta's adherence to the plan has been questioned.

The group barred junta commander Min Aung Hlaing from this week's summit after refusing to let a special envoy meet with ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The coup snuffed out Myanmar's brief trial with democracy, and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is now facing a slew of charges in a junta court that may land her in prison for decades.

The 76-year-old, who has been a thorn in the generals' side for years, was scheduled to speak in court for the first time on Tuesday in a closed-door hearing from which the media was prohibited.

Min Aung Hlaing's exclusion from the Southeast Asian summit was a first for an organization chastised for its lack of clout.

The junta criticized the decision as a violation of the bloc's norm of non-interference in member states' internal affairs.

In his stead, a top official from the junta-appointed foreign ministry was invited by the 10-member delegation.

However, on the day of the summit, the government stated that sending a lower-ranking official would "damage our country's sovereignty and image." "..

The leaders participating in the summit were shown on a giant screen at the start, but there was only a blue display with "Myanmar" on it. "It was meant to have the country's representative on it.

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, one of numerous ASEAN leaders who have condemned the coup, remarked that "progress has been slow." "after Myanmar's military coup

"This has substantial ramifications for Myanmar's people and ASEAN's reputation as a rules-based organization," "He said at the Brunei summit.

While some have praised the group's move to ban the junta commander, many believe it is doubtful that the bloc will go further, such as suspending Myanmar.

They also believe there is little prospect that the junta will decide this week's sessions, leading to a change of course.

"The issue of Myanmar is dividing ASEAN... There will almost certainly be no genuine breakthrough "AFP spoke with a Southeast Asian diplomat who requested anonymity.

The meeting's chair "expressed concern" and "called on all parties concerned in Myanmar to implement their commitment to the 'five-point consensus," according to a draft summit statement viewed by AFP.

The "five-point agreement" "ASEAN has devised a plan to resolve the issue.

Concerns over the South China Sea

Concerns about "severe occurrences" were also expressed. The draft statement states, "Beijing and other Southeast Asian states have overlapping claims in the South China Sea.

These incidents, it added, "may jeopardize regional peace, security, and stability." "using standard ASEAN communiqué phrasing that avoids mentioning specific countries.

Due to virus-related travel issues, this year's meetings, hosted by member-nation Brunei, will be held online.

Biden will attend a US-ASEAN summit later in the day after the Southeast Asian leaders' meeting on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Biden will attend a summit with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and other world leaders.

A US president will attend the ASEAN summits for the first time in four years, as Biden looks to mobilize support in the region against a growing China.

Publish : 2021-10-26 14:26:00

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