ASEAN downgrades Myanmar presence in summit in major rebuke

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Southeast Asian foreign ministers have agreed to reduce Myanmar’s participation in an upcoming summit in the sharpest rebuke from their leaders since a February 1 military takeover.

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Group President Brunei said on Saturday that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations would invite a non-political representative instead of Myanmar’s military leader, Senior General Min Aung Huling.

The 10-member bloc has been under intense international pressure for member state Myanmar to do more to stop the violence, which has killed more than 1,100 civilians and several political figures, including ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.


ASEAN foreign ministers held an emergency meeting late Friday after Myanmar refused to cooperate with the bloc’s crisis envoy, Brunei’s second foreign minister, Eriwan Yusuf. He was appointed in August to mediate in the crisis, but this week his trip to Myanmar was abruptly canceled because he was told he would not be able to meet Suu Kyi and others as per his wish.

Brunei said in a statement that Myanmar argued that Eriwan could not meet people or entities declared illegal, facing legal action such as Suu Kyi and ousted President Win Myint.

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Suu Kyi and other top civilian leaders were detained in the military takeover. She faces various charges that her supporters and independent analysts say are an attempt to legitimize the military action.

Brunei’s statement said ASEAN ministers were concerned about the impact of the Myanmar crisis on regional security and “the unity, credibility and centrality of ASEAN as a rules-based organisation”.

It states that the messenger of the block should have access to all concerned.

Members of the political opposition’s National Unity Government, which views itself as a shadow government, have asked to attend the October 26-28 summit, it said.

There was no consensus among ASEAN foreign ministers about having a political representative from Myanmar at the summit, so the ministers called for a non-political representative to give Myanmar a “place to restore its internal affairs and return to normalcy”. Decided to invite .

“Given the unsatisfactory and extremely limited progress, this was a difficult but necessary decision to uphold the credibility of ASEAN,” Singapore’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

Officials did not say who would be invited instead.

In handling Myanmar, ASEAN has been hampered by its fundamental policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of member states and its unanimous decision-making. Some member states such as Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines feel that the action is justified as major unrest in Myanmar could trigger regional instability.

Myanmar is widely seen as doing little to honor its commitments, although it claims it has helped facilitate humanitarian aid.

Allowing Min Aung Hlaing to attend the summit, which will take place by video, could be seen as a recognition of the military takeover that halted one of Asia’s most unprecedented democratic changes after decades of military rule.

Among the participating world leaders is President Joe Biden, who has condemned the takeover and authorized sanctions against Myanmar generals, their family members and allies.

The US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, South Korea, the European Union and the United Kingdom on Friday issued a joint statement of support for the ASEAN envoy. He urged Myanmar to work constructively with Eriwan and allow him to meet relevant parties.

“The military has so far not been prepared to engage productively with ASEAN to respond to the crisis in Burma,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington. We continue to support and we continue to support.” Visit of ASEAN Special Envoy.”


Associated Press writers Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

Credit: / Myanmar

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