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Myanmar junta chief excluded from ASEAN summit

17 October 2021
Myanmar junta chief excluded from ASEAN summit

Myanmar junta chief will be excluded from an upcoming ASEAN summit, the group said  on 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 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 bloc, widely criticised as a toothless organisation, took a strong  stand after the junta rebuffed requests for a special envoy to meet with all  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. 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". 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 overwhelmingly 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 continues to crack down brutally on dissent. More than 1,000  civilians have been killed, according to a local monitoring group.   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 with all parties concerned, but the junta  rejected any proposed meetings with people on trial, among them Suu Kyi, who  is facing various charges.  A senior US administration official, commenting on media reports about the  exclusion before the official statement was released, said "it seems  perfectly appropriate and, in fact, completely justified... for ASEAN to  downgrade Burma's participation", using Myanmar's former name.
  Member nations had already voiced their disappointment at the path the  junta has chosen.  "If there is no real progress then Malaysia's stance will remain: that we  will not want the general to be attending the summit. No compromise on that,"  Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said Friday ahead of the meeting.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in a tweet after the meeting that her country had proposed that Myanmar "should not be represented at the political level" at the summit until it restores "its democracy through an inclusive process".
Aung Myo Min, the human rights minister of a shadow government of ousted  Myanmar lawmakers called the NUG, praised the exclusion as "a very strong  action" and voiced hope ASEAN would recognise the NUG as Myanmar's legitimate government.
Political activist Minn Khant Kyaw Linn, 23, who who organised a protest in  Mandalay where the ASEAN flag was burnt in June, said it was time for the  bloc to allow NUG representatives to its meetings.  The junta-officially known as the State Administration Council-has  promised to hold elections and lift a state of emergency by August 2023.

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