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ASEAN leaders hit out at Myanmar junta after summit boycott

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Vietnam's Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh takes part in the 38th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit held online on a live video conference in Brunei due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, in Hanoi, on October 26, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Southeast Asian leaders have decried Myanmar's junta's decision to not send a representative of the country to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, following a ban on its top general.

The influential economic union of Southeast Asian countries had banned Myanmar’s army chief Min Aung Hlaing from attending the summit, accusing him of ignoring a roadmap aimed at restoring peace in the country,

The body, while refusing the military official’s participation, said it would accept a non-political figure from Myanmar.

However, the military junta on Monday rejected the proposal, saying it would only agree to its leader or a minister attending the ASEAN summit.

As the regional summit opened on Tuesday without a representative from Myanmar, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who will become the group's chairman next year, said the body did not expel Myanmar from ASEAN's framework, adding that Myanmar “abandoned its right."

"Now we are in the situation of ASEAN minus one. It is not because of ASEAN, but because of Myanmar,” he noted.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi also said that his country’s President Joko Widodo in his remarks to leaders lamented Myanmar's "unwelcome attitude" towards ASEAN's diplomatic efforts.

"ASEAN's decision to invite a Myanmar representative on a non-political level was a heavy one, but it had to be done," she said.

"The president reminded that it's important for us to honor the principles of non-interference. But on the other hand, we're obligated to uphold other principles ... like democracy, good governance, respect for human rights, and a constitutional government," the minister added.

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, a retired general deemed the ASEAN leader closest to Myanmar's coup-makers, calling on the country to implement a five-point roadmap it agreed with ASEAN in April.

He noted that the matter was crucial for the group's reputation and a test of its resolve.

"ASEAN's constructive role in addressing this situation is of paramount importance and our action on this matter shall have a bearing on ASEAN's credibility in the eyes of the international community," Prayuth stated.

ASEAN’s unprecedented snub of a leader of a member state came after its special envoy Erywan Yusof said the ruling State Administrative Council (SAC) denied him sufficient access, including to ousted, civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who faces several charges.              

According to the United Nations envoys, Myanmar security forces have killed over 1,000 people and arrested thousands more.


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