The decision, taken 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.
The Singapore Foreign Ministry said on Saturday that the decision to exclude the head of the military government, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, was a “difficult but necessary decision to maintain ASEAN’s credibility.”
The statement noted “insufficient progress” in implementing a five-point plan agreed by ASEAN leaders in April to end the unrest following the coup.
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 get back to normal, ”Brunei said in a statement.
He did not mention Min Aung Hlaing or the name who would be invited in his place.
Myanmar military government spokesman Zaw Min Tun blamed “foreign intervention” for Min Aung Hlaing’s rare exclusion from the summit, and told the BBC’s Burmese press service that the United States and European Union officials had pressured other leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to exclude the military leader from the summit later this month.
“Foreign interventions can also be seen here,” he said. “Before, we have heard that some emissaries from certain countries have met with US foreign affairs and have come under pressure from the EU. “
“A political palliative”
More than 1,000 civilians have been killed and thousands arrested by Burmese security forces, according to the United Nations, amid a crackdown on strikes and protests that derailed the country’s timid democracy and drew international condemnation.
The military government says these estimates of the death toll are exaggerated.
Mustafa Izzuddin, global affairs analyst at consultancy firm Solaris Strategies Singapore, called the exclusion “a political stopgap measure for ASEAN to appease international criticism.”
“He assures his [ASEAN’s] regional reputation as an organization that can still play an active role in Southeast Asian affairs, ”he told AFP news agency.
Izzuddin also said the move sent a “political signal” to the military government “that ASEAN is not the type to be rushed, and that Myanmar must show its seriousness and commitment to roll out the five-point plan” .
Brunei added that some member states had received requests from Myanmar’s government of national unity, formed by opponents of the military government, 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.
Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in a tweet that her country had proposed that Myanmar “not be represented politically” at the top until it restored “its democracy through an inclusive process ”.
Singapore urged Myanmar to cooperate with ASEAN Envoy, Brunei’s 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.
Zaw Min Tun, the military government spokesman, said this week that Erywan would be welcome in Myanmar, but would not be allowed to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi as she is accused of crimes.