BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, October 26 (Reuters) – A summit of Southeast Asian leaders began on Tuesday without a representative from Myanmar, after its junta leader was excluded for failing to respect a regional peace deal and that the ruling military refused to send a junior representation.
Neither Brunei, the president of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), nor the bloc’s secretary general made any mention of the no-show in opening remarks for the virtual meeting.
ASEAN decided on October 15 to exclude junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, who toppled a civilian government on February 1, due to his inability to implement a peace process he had agreed with the ‘ASEAN in April to end the country’s bloody crisis.
The move was a rare bold step by a regional grouping known for its non-interference and commitment.
Brunei had said the bloc would invite an apolitical representative from Myanmar, but there was no confirmation when the summit opened.
Myanmar’s junta said Monday evening it would only accept its head of state or ministerial representative to attend the summit, saying its seat would be empty.
US President Joe Biden will attend a joint session via video link.
Since the overthrow of Suu Kyi’s government, his detention and most of his allies, and the end of a decade of attempted democracy, the Burmese military has killed more than 1,000 people and arrested thousands, according to the report. monitoring group of the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners.
The junta’s disputes are seen as exaggerated and claim that soldiers have been killed in nationwide fighting with armed opposition groups.
On Tuesday’s opening day agenda were three separate meetings between ASEAN leaders and representatives from the United States, China and South Korea.
ASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
In deciding to sideline the boss of the Burmese junta, ASEAN cited his inability to take action to end hostilities, engage in dialogue, allow humanitarian aid and grant a special envoy full access to the government. country.
Myanmar insists the conflict is fueled by “terrorists” allied to a shadow unity government and says ASEAN ignores it.
Michael Vatikiotis, Asia director of the Geneva-based Center for Humanitarian Dialogue, said Myanmar’s junta “probably worries about being left out of the summit,” although they are used to being in international isolation.
“The question now is whether regional leaders will agree to engage more formally with the parallel national unity government, as the US and the EU have started to do,” he said.
The Government of National Unity is an alliance of pro-democracy groups and ethnic minority armies formed after the coup.
Report on Ain Bandial in Bandar Seri Begawan; Additional reporting by Tom Allart; Writing by Kay Johnson; Editing by Michael Perry
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