BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Oct. 16 (Reuters) – Southeast Asian countries will invite a non-partisan Myanmar representative to a regional summit this month, putting an unprecedented snub to the military leader who led a coup against a civilian government elected in February.
The decision by Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers in an emergency meeting on Friday evening marks a rare bold step for the consensus bloc, which has traditionally privileged a policy of engagement and non-interference.
Singapore’s foreign ministry said on Saturday that the decision to exclude junta leader Min Aung Hlaing was a “difficult but necessary decision to maintain ASEAN’s credibility.”
The statement went on to cite the lack of progress on a road map to restore peace to Myanmar that the junta agreed with ASEAN in April.
More than 1,000 civilians have been killed by Burmese security forces and thousands arrested, according to the United Nations, amid a crackdown on strikes and protests that derailed the country’s timid democracy and drew international condemnation.
The junta says these estimates of the death toll are exaggerated.
Current ASEAN President Brunei said a non-political figure from Myanmar would be invited to the summit from October 26-28, after no consensus was reached for a political representative to attend.
“As there had been insufficient progress … as well as concerns about Myanmar’s engagement, in particular on establishing a constructive dialogue among all parties concerned, some ASEAN member states recommended that the ASEAN is giving Myanmar space to restore internal affairs and return to normalcy, ”Brunei said in a statement.
He did not mention Min Aung Hlaing or the name who would be invited in his place.
Brunei said some member states have received requests from Myanmar’s government of national unity, formed by junta opponents, to attend the summit.
ASEAN has faced increasing international pressure to take a tougher stance against Myanmar, having been criticized in the past for its ineffectiveness in dealing with leaders accused of rights violations, subversion of democracy and intimidation. political opponents.
A US State Department official told reporters on Friday that it was “perfectly appropriate and indeed very justified” for ASEAN to downgrade Myanmar’s participation in the upcoming summit.
In its statement, Singapore urged Myanmar to cooperate with ASEAN envoy, Brunei Second Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof.
Erywan delayed a long-planned visit to the country in recent weeks and demanded to meet with all parties in Myanmar, including ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was arrested during the coup.
Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said this week that Erywan would be welcome in Myanmar but would not be allowed to meet Suu Kyi as she is accused of crimes.
Report by Ain Bandial; Additional reporting by Aradhana Aravindan in Singapore and Simon Lewis in Washington; Writing by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by William Mallard & Simon Cameron-Moore
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