Myanmar skips ASEAN meet after its military ruler shut out

New Delhi: Southeast Asian leaders have begun their annual summit without Myanmar after its military refused to send a representative to the three-day meeting in protest over the exclusion of its top general.

Neither Brunei, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) chair, nor the bloc’s secretary-general made a mention of the no-show in opening remarks at October 26’s virtual meeting.

In an unprecedented move, ASEAN on October 15 agreed to bar Myanmar’s military chief Min Aung Hlaing, who toppled a civilian government on February 1, over his failure to implement a peace plan he agreed with ASEAN in April towards ending a bloody political crisis triggered by the coup.

The move was a rare bold step by a regional grouping known for its non-interference and engagement.

ASEAN is made up of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Myanmar joined in 1997 under a previous military government.

Two diplomats told a news agency that Brunei invited Myanmar’s highest-ranking veteran diplomat, Chan Aye, as a “non-political” representative but she did not attend.

In deciding to sideline the Myanmar military chief, ASEAN cited his failure to take steps to end hostilities, initiate dialogue, allow humanitarian support, and grant a special envoy full access to the country.

The military also denied permission to ASEAN’s envoy to Myanmar, Brunei Second Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof, to meet Aung San Suu Kyi and other government leaders who have been detained since the February 1 takeover.

Since the coup, Myanmar’s military has also killed more than 1,000 people and arrested thousands, according to the monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. (Al Jazeera)


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