Myanmar’s military coup leader has responded to his exclusion from the upcoming ASEAN summit by insisting that the regional bloc’s special envoy made requests that were impossible to accommodate.
ASEAN on Saturday decided not to invite Senior General Min Aung Hlaing to the Oct. 26-28 summit in Brunei after the bloc’s special envoy to Myanmar was denied permission to meet all stakeholders in Myanmar’s crisis, including the country’s detained elected leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, during his planned visit.
Excluding a member state’s leader from a summit is a rare and bold move for the bloc, which has historically stuck to a policy of noninterference in the domestic affairs of member countries.
Erywan Yusof, Brunei’s second minister of foreign affairs, was appointed as ASEAN’s special envoy to Myanmar in August in an effort to mediate the country’s crisis, which was triggered by the military’s Feb. 1 coup. He has been trying to visit Myanmar since then, in line with commitments made by the military regime to the regional bloc.
However, the junta has failed to implement the agreed steps, including facilitating the special envoy’s visit.
In his speech to the nation late Monday morning, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said the envoy had made multiple requests regarding his visit, adding that negotiations with ASEAN were ongoing.
“There are points impossible to accommodate in the ASEAN special envoy’s request,” he said, referring to Erywan’s call that he be allowed to meet Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. The junta said last week that the special envoy couldn’t meet the detained State Counselor as she is now facing criminal charges.
The junta leader added that “Whatever it is, Myanmar will try as best as possible, because it’s an ASEAN member.”
“I think ASEAN will carry out the summit and related meetings based on the ASEAN Charter,” he said, expressing hope that the bloc would reverse his exclusion.
The regime’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Saturday that it was very disappointed with ASEAN’s decision to exclude Min Aung Hlaing from the summit and condemned the move.
In his 13-minute speech, the coup leader also criticized the bloc and the international community, saying that while they asked the junta to end its violence against civilians, no one was concerned about stopping the growing and deadly armed struggle against the regime by civilian resistance groups and some ethnic organizations who are sympathetic to them.
“We have been trying to solve this until today. I want to say ASEAN needs to tackle it,” he said.
The 10-member bloc’s exclusion of Min Aung Hlaing from the summit was a huge blow for Myanmar junta. It desperately seeks official recognition from other countries—especially those in ASEAN—as Myanmar’s rightful government because it faces a contesting claim by the National Unity Government (NUG) formed by elected lawmakers from the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) and their ethnic allies. At the same time the regime is regarded as an outcast by much of the international community, especially in the West, for its coup and subsequent brutality in killing over 1,000 peaceful anti-regime protesters.
Note: The story was updated to include the Myanmar Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ comments on ASEAN’s decision
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