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ASEAN excludes Myanmar junta from summit in rare move

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

Southeast Asian nations will invite a non-political representative from Myanmar to a regional summit this month, turning in an unprecedented snub to the military chief who led a coup against an elected civilian government in February.

The decision taken by foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) at an emergency meeting remaining night, marks a rare bold step for the consensus-driven bloc, which has traditionally favored a policy of engagement and non-interference.

Singapore’s foreign ministry stated today the cross to exclude junta chief Min Aung Hlaing used to be a “difficult however critical decision to uphold Asean’s credibility”.

The statement went on to cite the lack of progress made on a roadmap to restore peace in Myanmar that the junta had agreed to with ASEAN in April.

More than 1,000 civilians have been killed by Myanmar safety forces and thousands arrested, according to the United Nations, amid a crackdown on strikes and protests which has derailed the country’s tentative democracy and induced international condemnation.

The junta says these estimates of the demise toll are exaggerated.

Asean’s current chair Brunei said a non-political figure from Myanmar would be invited to the October 26-28 summit, after no consensus used to be reached for a political representative to attend.

“As there had been inadequate progress… as well as issues over Myanmar’s commitment, in particular on establishing constructive dialogue among all concerned parties, some ASEAN Member States recommended that Asean give area to Myanmar to fix its internal affairs and return to normalcy,” Brunei said in a statement.

It did not mention Min Aung Hlaing or name who would be invited in his stead.

Brunei stated some member states had received requests from Myanmar’s National Unity Government, formed by opponents of the junta, to attend the summit.

‘Justified Downgrade’

ASEAN has faced increasing global strain to take a more challenging stand against Myanmar, having been criticised in the past for its ineffectiveness in dealing with leaders accused of rights abuses, subverting democracy, and intimidating political opponents.

A US State Department official told reporters on Friday that it used to be “perfectly appropriate and in fact totally justified” for Asean to downgrade Myanmar’s participation at the coming summit.

Singapore in its declaration entreated Myanmar to cooperate with Asean’s envoy, Brunei’s second foreign affairs minister Erywan Yusof.

Erywan has delayed a long-planned visit to the country in current weeks and has asked to meet all parties in Myanmar, such as deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who used to be detained in the coup.

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun stated this week Erywan would be welcome in Myanmar, however, would not be allowed to meet Suu Kyi because she is charged with crimes.

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