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ASEAN bar Myanmar’s military leader Min Aung Hlaing from summit in rare move

The head of Myanmar’s military junta will be excluded from an upcoming ASEAN summit,  with a non-political representative from Myanmar attending instead.  The ASEAN group is more noted for its historical attitude of non interference in neighbours affairs.

The decision taken by foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at an emergency meeting on Friday night stated that Min Aung Hlaing would not be invited to the leaders’ meeting on Oct 26-28.  This presents as a snub against the military government leader who led a coup against an elected civilian government in February.

Pressure has been mounting for the 10-member bloc of ASEAN states to do more to dissuade the Myanmar Junta from the path it is on, especially halting the violence that has left more than 1,100 civilians dead after the elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi was charged and imprisoned.

Brunei, ASEAN’s current chair, issued a statement citing a lack of progress made on a a previous agreement for a roadmap that the junta had agreed to in order to restore peace in Myanmar.  Other member states added to the conversation, with Singapore’s foreign ministry stating the move to exclude junta chief Min Aung Hlaing was a “difficult, but necessary, decision to uphold ASEAN’s credibility”.  Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi had tweeted that there was “no significant progress” toward resolving the crisis. Indonesia has take the view that Myanmar “should not be represented at the political level until Myanmar restore its democracy through an inclusive process.”

Thailand has been more careful in it’s approach as being a direct neighbour, it is wary of possible implications from the instability that might effect people movement through its border.    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday issued a carefully worded statement hoping somewhat optimistically that an accord could be struck.

“We … believe in the collective wisdom of all Asean member states, including Myanmar, to overcome all challenges together in the spirit of the Asean family,” ministry spokesman Tanee Sangrat said.

He further added, “We urge all parties in Myanmar to ensure safe and effective delivery of humanitarian assistance, especially those related to public health, to those in need,” speaking to Thailand’s desire to continue the humanitarian assistance to Myanmar’s people.

In August ASEAN appointed Brunei Second Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof in August as its special envoy to mediate in the crisis.  Unfortunately Myanmar officials prevented Erywan Yusof’s meeting with Suu Kyi, which let to the recent trip to Myanmar being cancelled.  Brunei followed up with a statment said ASEAN ministers were concerned about the impact of the Myanmar crisis on regional security and about the “unity, credibility and centrality of ASEAN as a rules-based organisation”.  The bloc’s envoy must have access to all concerned parties, it said.

Asean’s key dialogue partners also supported the idea of special envoy Erywan Yusof meeting with Aung San Suu Kyi.  In a joint statement, the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, Norway and East Timor said they were “deeply concerned about the dire situation in Myanmar”, and urged Nay Pyi Taw to “engage constructively” with Erywan.

Elections are to be held in August 2023 as well as lifting the statement of emergency.  however, not everyone is holding their breath for this to occur.

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