ASEAN ministers do not want to censor Myanmar for obstructing envoys

Southeast Asia’s top diplomats will discuss in an emergency meeting on Friday whether to allow Myanmar’s military leaders to attend an annual summit after a crisis envoy is prevented from meeting with deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations had appointed Brunei’s second foreign minister Erywan Yusof in August as its special envoy to bring an end to the Myanmar crisis. But he abruptly interrupted his trip to the abused nation this week after being told by his hosts that he would not be able to meet Suu Kyi and others he wanted.

Myanmar officials have said Erywan could not see Suu Kyi because of criminal charges against her. The Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Thursday that it hoped Erywan would try to build trust instead of putting politically motivated pressure on Myanmar.

The ten-nation ASEAN bloc, which includes Myanmar, has been under intense international pressure to take swift decisive action to stop the violence, which has reportedly left more than 1,100 civilians dead, to force its generals to free political leaders led by Suu Kyi who was overthrown in a military takeover on February 1 and to put the nation back on the path to democracy.

Some ASEAN members have demanded that Myanmar be censored for refusing to cooperate.

ASEAN’s foreign ministers will consider a number of proposals on Friday, including allowing General Min Aung Hlaing to attend the meetings without allowing him to speak or banning him from participating, but allowing a lower-level civilian representative to take his place. , a Southeast Asian diplomat told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity due to lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly.

A Myanmar delegation attended last month’s UN General Assembly in New York but did not address the body, an arrangement that ASEAN could possibly adopt, the diplomat said.

Myanmar’s military – appointed foreign minister was invited to attend the two – hour ministerial meeting on Friday night, the diplomat said, adding “we do not know how Myanmar will react if they are officially presented with these options.”

Myanmar is generally considered to do very little to meet its commitments, although it claims to have helped facilitate humanitarian aid. Suu Kyi has been in custody since the army’s takeover, and is currently being tried on several charges that her supporters and independent analysts say are structured and an attempt to legitimize the military’s takeover.

ASEAN is hampered by its bedrock policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of the Member States and by its consensus decision-making, which means that only one Member State can reject all proposals. However, some members believe that action is justified because major unrest in Myanmar could trigger regional instability.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah warned earlier this month that “if there is no progress, it would be difficult to have” Min Aung Hlaing at the ASEAN summits.

Philippine Secretary of State Teodoro Locsin Jr. stood behind its Malaysian counterpart and warned “if we regret in any way, our credibility as a real regional organization will disappear.”

Locsin has called for Myanmar’s return to political and other conditions ahead of the military takeover on February 1, but during an online forum on Thursday with Australia’s Lowy Institute, stressed that Myanmar’s army is crucial to its stability.

“We can not move on, if you do not go back to what it was,” Locsin said, but added “without the army … Myanmar will be what they can give you: a hell of anarchy.”


The authors of the Associated Press Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, and Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this story.


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