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  16 Oct 2021, 12:03
Update : 16 Oct 2021, 17:06

Myanmar junta chief excluded from ASEAN summit 

   BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei, Oct 16, 2021 (BSS/AFP) - Myanmar's junta 
chief will be excluded from an upcoming ASEAN summit, the group said 
Saturday, a rare rebuke as concerns rise over the military government's 
commitment to defusing a bloody crisis.

  Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed at 
an emergency meeting late Friday that a "non-political representative" for 
Myanmar be invited to the October 26-28 summit, current ASEAN chair Brunei 
said in a statement.

  The decision effectively excluded junta leader Min Aung Hlaing.

  The bloc, widely criticised as a toothless organisation, took a strong 
stand after the junta rebuffed requests for a special envoy to meet with all 
parties concerned -- a phrase seen to include ousted civilian leader Aung San 
Suu Kyi.

  The statement noted "insufficient progress" in the implementation of a 
five-point plan agreed by ASEAN leaders in April to end turmoil following a 
coup in February.

  It also said that the situation in Myanmar "was having an impact on 
regional security as well as the unity, credibility and centrality of ASEAN".

  Richard Horsey, Myanmar adviser to Crisis Group, predicted the "non-
political" representative would be someone below the level of minister or 
deputy minister.

  Singapore's foreign ministry described the move as a "difficult but 
necessary decision to uphold ASEAN's credibility".

  Mustafa Izzuddin, global affairs analyst at consultancy Solaris Strategies 
Singapore, called the exclusion "a political stopgap measure for ASEAN to 
assuage international criticism".

  It sent a "political signal" to the junta "that ASEAN is not one to be 
pushed around", Izzuddin added.

  And independent Myanmar analyst David Mathieson said that "in ASEAN terms 
this is a real slap in the face".

  - Thorn in ASEAN's side -

  Myanmar, mostly ruled by the military since a 1962 coup, has been a thorn 
in ASEAN's side since it joined in 1997.

  Elections in 2015 overwhelmingly won by Suu Kyi's National League for 
Democracy (NLD) party ushered in the start of civilian rule -- but this was 
cut short by the coup.

  ASEAN has been under international pressure to address unrest that erupted 
after the putsch, including massive protests; renewed clashes between the 
military and ethnic rebel armies in border regions; and an economy spiralling 
into freefall.

  The bloc has expressed disappointment at a lack of cooperation from the 
junta, which continues to crack down brutally on dissent. More than 1,000 
civilians have been killed, according to a local monitoring group.

  Part of the consensus was to allow a long-delayed visit by a special envoy, 
Brunei's Second Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof.

  ASEAN has insisted that he meets with all parties concerned, but the junta 
rejected any proposed meetings with people on trial, among them Suu Kyi, who 
is facing various charges.

  A senior US administration official, commenting on media reports about the 
exclusion before the official statement was released, said "it seems 
perfectly appropriate and, in fact, completely justified... for ASEAN to 
downgrade Burma's participation", using Myanmar's former name.

  Member nations had already voiced their disappointment at the path the 
junta has chosen.

  "If there is no real progress then Malaysia's stance will remain: that we 
will not want the general to be attending the summit. No compromise on that," 
Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said Friday ahead of the 
meeting.

  Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in a tweet after the meeting 
that her country had proposed that Myanmar "should not be represented at the 
political level" at the summit until it restores "its democracy through an 
inclusive process".

  Aung Myo Min, the human rights minister of a shadow government of ousted 
Myanmar lawmakers called the NUG, praised the exclusion as "a very strong 
action" and voiced hope ASEAN would recognise the NUG as Myanmar's legitimate 
government.

  Political activist Minn Khant Kyaw Linn, 23, who who organised a protest in 
Mandalay where the ASEAN flag was burnt in June, said it was time for the 
bloc to allow NUG representatives to its meetings.

  The junta -- officially known as the State Administration Council -- has 
promised to hold elections and lift a state of emergency by August 2023.

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