ASEAN to exclude Myanmar’s military leader from Oct. summit

Oct 16, 2021 – 23:42 KYODO NEWS

Myanmar junta leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing attends a conference on international security in Moscow on June 23, 2021. (Anadolu Agency/Getty/Kyodo)

SINGAPORE – ASEAN foreign ministers agreed to invite a nonpolitical representative from Myanmar to the regional group’s summit later this month, said Brunei, this year’s chair, on Saturday, effectively excluding Myanmar’s military leader.

The ministers of ASEAN, which has a principle of noninterference in fellow members’ politics, made the unprecedented decision at an emergency online meeting Friday, amid a lack of cooperation from the junta, especially its failure to accept a visit by a special ASEAN envoy on Myanmar.

The junta of Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who led a coup in February that ousted the elected government under civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, has rejected the special envoy’s request to meet with Suu Kyi and some other opposition leaders.

The special envoy of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations is supposed to mediate dialogue between all sides in Myanmar’s political turmoil as part of his mandate.

Brunei said in a statement issued Saturday that while the ministers during the meeting stressed the special envoy’s access to all parties concerned in Myanmar’s turmoil, they listened to the military government’s claim that the special envoy “should avoid engagement with parties currently undergoing legal proceedings.”

The parties include Suu Kyi and ousted President Win Myint as well as organizations deemed illegal by the junta, including National Unity Government, an organization set up in opposition to the coup claiming to be Myanmar’s legitimate government, and People’s Defense Forces, the group’s armed wing, according to the statement.

The chair also said that both the military government and the NUG insisted on attending the virtual summit scheduled for Oct. 26 to 28.

“Following extensive discussions, there was no consensus reached for a political representative from Myanmar to attend” the summit, it said, explaining why the ministers decided to invite a nonpolitical representative from the country, which appeared to mean a high-ranking official of the Foreign Ministry under the junta.

The decision of inviting a nonpolitical representative also applies to the East Asia Summit, an ASEAN-related meeting which involves countries including Japan, the United States, South Korea and China, and is scheduled around the same period as the ASEAN summit, according to the statement.

In response, the Foreign Ministry under the junta said in a statement, “Myanmar is extremely disappointed and strongly objects to the outcomes of the Emergency Foreign Ministers’ Meeting” as the decision on the country’s representation was made without consensus.

A spokesman of the military government also said ASEAN decided not to invite Min Aung Hlaing “due to external pressure and some other factors,” on a radio and internet program of the BBC Burmese service.

Zaw Min Tun, the spokesman, referred to the special envoy’s meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Myanmar earlier this week, claiming the decision undermined ASEAN’s principle of noninterference in the domestic affairs of member states.

Among the ASEAN member countries, Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in a Twitter post that Myanmar should not send a political representative to ASEAN-related summits until the country restores its democracy through an inclusive process.

“I underlined that there is no significant progress on the implementation of the five points of consensus,” the Indonesian minister said, regarding the consensus on Myanmar made by ASEAN in April, which called for an immediate stop to violence, dialogue among all parties concerned to seek a peaceful solution and the special envoy’s mediation of the dialogue.

Although Brunei said in the statement that the ministers agreed on the invitation while they reaffirmed the principle of noninterference, it is seen that the decision marks a historic shift for ASEAN from the principle.

Brunei’s second foreign minister, Erywan Yusof, was appointed as the special envoy in August but his planned visit earlier this week was not approved by the junta.

ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Cr.KYODO NEWS