Myanmar Junta Leader Could Be Excluded From ASEAN Summit: Malaysian FM

By The Irrawaddy 5 October 2021

Voicing the frustration of ASEAN members, Malaysia’s foreign minister has warned that the leader of Myanmar’s military regime could be excluded from a regional summit scheduled for later this month over the junta’s failure to cooperate with the regional bloc’s efforts to resolve the country’s crisis.

ASEAN member Myanmar has been in social and political turmoil since a military coup in February, which was followed by bloody crackdowns on anti-regime protesters. The international community had pushed for diplomatic efforts by a special envoy appointed by ASEAN.

As soon as the regional grouping’s foreign ministers’ meeting ended on Monday, member nations joined in a chorus of disappointment at the foot dragging by Myanmar’s military rulers.

According to an announcement by Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry, during the meeting the regime’s foreign minister, U Wunna Maung Lwin, discussed the ongoing negotiations over a proposed visit to the country by ASEAN special envoy Erywan Yusof, who seeks to meet with all stakeholders. Brunei’s second foreign minister, Yusof was appointed as the envoy in August but the regime has yet to approve a visit by him.

By most other accounts, however, the meeting on Monday didn’t go well.

After the meeting, Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah tweeted that he stated at the meeting that ASEAN members were disappointed as Myanmar authorities have not cooperated with the special envoy and warned that Myanmar could be excluded from this month’s summit if there is no progress.

“Unless there is progress, it would be difficult to have the Chairman of the SAC at the ASEAN Summit (26-28 Oct 21),” he said, referring to coup leader Min Aung Hlaing. The SAC, or State Administration Council, is a ruling organ set up by the junta.

The Myanmar junta leader desperately wants to attend the upcoming summit, according to diplomats in Yangon. He seeks to show that the junta has legitimacy and wants to make the most of his appearance at the meeting as a sign of “acceptance” from the regional grouping.

Moreover, Myanmar is rapidly sliding into the condition of a failed state; the country is in chaos and the regime still can’t fully control the country since the military staged an illegitimate coup in February.

At a news conference following Monday’s meeting Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi expressed a similar view to her Malaysian counterpart, saying there had been no significant progress in Myanmar and “most members expressed disappointment.”

“The military has not given a positive response to what has been attempted by the special envoy,” she said, according to Reuters.

Yusof has said that as envoy he seeks full access to all parties, including detained and ousted leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, and other officials detained by the military during its power grab.

Instead of a meeting with the detained State Counselor, however, Yusof has been offered a meeting with former Vice President Henry Van Thio and the former Lower House speaker T Khun Myat, sources in Myanmar said.

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, 76, is being detained by the junta at an unknown location in Myanmar’s capital Naypyitaw. She faces a raft of charges including breaching COVID-19 regulations, sedition, illegal possession of walkie-talkies and numerous counts of corruption.

ASEAN diplomats familiar with the Myanmar issue said the regime’s leaders still believe they can use the regional grouping to gain legitimacy.

Myanmar security personnel have used force to try and quash the peaceful protests and mass disobedience movement that emerged in the wake of the coup, killing more than 1,100 people, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a human rights group that has been tracking the situation. Daily clashes, bombings and killings targeting the regime’s troops have occurred in Myanmar since late March.

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