Burma

Myanmar Junta Leader Barred From Attending Next Month’s ASEAN Summits 

By The Irrawaddy 4 October 2022

Myanmar junta leader Min Aung Hlaing has not been invited to the upcoming regional summits hosted by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in another major blow to the regime.

Cambodia, which holds the rotating chair of the bloc, said it sent out invitations to all ASEAN member states except Myanmar.

The snub comes after the regime failed to implement the ASEAN peace plan drafted for conflict-torn Myanmar following the February 2021 coup.

The 40th and 41st ASEAN summits are scheduled for next month in Phnom Penh.

Exclusion from the summits is another major diplomatic blow to the junta, which has been desperate for international recognition as the legitimate ruler of the country since its takeover.

Min Aung Hlaing and his junta have been barred from ASEAN and related meetings at least four times since the coup. Instead, Myanmar has been asked to send non-political representatives, as the bloc imposed unprecedented punishment for the regime’s failure to implement its peace plan.

Chum Sunry, spokesman for Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, told the Phnom Penh Post on Tuesday: “We have suggested that Myanmar send only a non-political representative [to next month’s summits].”

Myanmar has been a thorn in ASEAN’s side since the coup last year sparked a popular uprising.

In an effort to settle the social and political turmoil, the bloc drafted a peace plan known as the Five-Point Consensus in April last year. However, instead of implementing the plan, which includes an immediate cessation of violence, the regime continues to commit extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests of civilians who oppose military rule. So far, the junta has killed more than 2,000 people while torching villages and homes in resistance strongholds across the country. The 10-nation regional bloc has responded with the rare move of blocking the regime from attending its summits.

Junta chief Min Aung Hlaing was excluded from regional summits in October 2021 and the US-ASEAN Special Summit in Washington last month. Junta Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin was also barred from the bloc’s foreign ministers’ meetings in February and August this year.

Although it has excluded the junta from meetings, ASEAN is still under fire for sticking to a peace plan that has proved ineffective in reining in the military regime.

Meanwhile, member states of the bloc are also divided over what action to take on Myanmar. Cambodia favors negotiating with the junta but Malaysia prefers a tougher approach, including engagement with Myanmar’s opposition and civilian National Unity Government (NUG).

Addressing the United Nations General Assembly last month, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob expressed disappointment at the lack of progress in implementing the ASEAN peace plan.

“In its current form, the ASEAN Five Point Consensus cannot continue any longer. Therefore, this consensus needs to be given a new lease of life and refined based on a clearer framework, timeframe and end goal,” he said.

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