Southeast Asian bloc to discuss excluding Myanmar junta leader from summit

Updated: October 14th, 2021 09:05 PM IST

Southeast Asian bloc to discuss excluding Myanmar junta leader from summit

Southeast Asian bloc to discuss excluding Myanmar junta leader from summit

Southeast Asian foreign ministers will discuss excluding Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing from an upcoming summit at a meeting on Friday, sources told Reuters, as pressure builds on the ruling military to comply with an agreed peace roadmap.

The meeting comes as the junta ruled out allowing a regional envoy, Bruneis second foreign affairs minister, Erywan Yusof, to meet deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is on trial on multiple charges since her elected government was overthrown in a Feb. 1 coup. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) agreed on a five-point consensus with Min Aung Hlaing in April, but several members of the bloc have criticised the juntas failure to implement the plan, which includes dialogue among all parties, humanitarian access and an end to hostilities.

Fridays previously unscheduled virtual meeting will be hosted by ASEAN chair Brunei, according to multiple sources based in ASEAN member countries, including diplomats and government officials. Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia had indicated that they were in favour of excluding Min Aung Hlaing from the Oct. 26-28 virtual summit, but were pushing for a consensus among nine ASEAN states, three of the sources said. Myanmar is the 10th ASEAN member.

A spokesman for Thailands foreign ministry confirmed a meeting would be held on Friday. Philippine Foreign Minister Teodoro Locsin on Thursday voiced support for excluding Min Aung Hlaing from future summits, adding that ASEAN could no longer afford to take a neutral stance on Myanmar.

"We can continue keeping them (Myanmar) at a distance but... if we relent in any way, our credibility as a real regional organisation disappears," Locsin said in an interview with Australian think-tank Lowy Institute. "Whats that? Were a bunch of guys who always agree with each other on the worthless things, things that dont count in the world."

The U.S. State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed Myanmar, also known as Burma, with Erywan on Wednesday. It said the two "expressed concern over the violence and deteriorating crisis in Burma and emphasized the urgency for the Burmese military regime to cease the violence, release all those unjustly detained, and restore multi-party democracy and Burma’s democratic transition."

It said they also reaffirmed the need to hold the Myanmar government accountable to the five-point consensus and facilitate a meaningful visit by Erywan, to include engagements with all stakeholders. Myanmar junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun did not respond to calls seeking comment. Bruneis foreign ministry did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

ENVOY VISIT STALLED Myanmar, with a long history of military dictatorship and international sanctions over systematic human rights abuses, has been ASEANs trickiest issue since the group was formed in 1967, testing the limits of its unity and policy of non-interference in each others affairs.

More than 1,100 people have been killed since Myanmars coup, according to the United Nations, many during a crackdown by security forces on pro-democracy strikes and protests, during which thousands have been arrested. Erywan last week confirmed some members had been "deep in discussions" about not inviting Min Aung Hlaing.

A long-planned visit by Erywan to Myanmar has been delayed in recent weeks. Earlier this week, he said he was in consultations with parties in Myanmar, did not take sides or political positions and looked forward to a visit. Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun, in written remarks dated Wednesday, said the military would not block Erywan from visiting but would not allow him to meet Suu Kyi, because she is charged with crimes.

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