Myanmar junta ‘extremely disappointed’ over leader’s exclusion from ASEAN summit

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Brunei said in the statement that a non-political figure from Myanmar would be invited to the summit, after no agreement was reached on the presence of a political representative.

Brunei’s foreign minister also said there had been “insufficient progress” a roadmap to restore peace in Myanmar that the junta had agreed with ASEAN in April, as well as “concerns” over the junta’s commitment to establish a constructive dialogue between all stakeholders.

“Some ASEAN member states recommended that ASEAN allow Myanmar to return to its internal affairs and return to normal,” the statement said.

In response, Myanmar’s military – controlled foreign ministry said it was “extremely disappointed and strongly internally” against being excluded from the summit.

The ousted Myanmar president says the army tried to force him to resign hours before the coup

“The discussions and the decision on Myanmar’s issue of representation took place without consensus and were contrary to ASEAN’s goals,” says the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“Ignoring ASEAN’s good traditions of promoting unity in diversity and resolving differences through consultation and consensus would greatly affect ASEAN’s unity and centrality,” it added.

A spokesman for Myanmar’s military government previously blamed “foreign intervention” for the decision.

Singapore’s foreign ministry said on Saturday it supported the exclusion of the Myanmar junta, saying it was a “difficult but necessary decision” to maintain ASEAN’s credibility.

“Singapore calls on the military authorities in Myanmar to cooperate with the Special Envoy to implement the five-point agreement swiftly and fully,” the ministry said in a statement.

ASEAN’s decision to exclude Myanmar’s junta marks a rare bold step for the consensus-driven bloc, which has traditionally favored a policy of engagement and non-interference.

It is also an unsurpassed snub for Min Aung Hlaing, who led a coup against an elected civilian government in February and detained the country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi over alleged irregularities in the election.

More than 1,000 civilians have been killed by Myanmar’s security forces with thousands more arrested, according to the UN, in the midst of an attack on strikes and protests that have derailed the country’s tentative democracy and caused international condemnation.

The junta says these estimates of the death are exaggerated.

In August, Min Aung Hlaing declared himself prime minister of a newly formed caretaker government. During a speech to the nation on August 1, he reiterated a promise to hold elections by 2023, saying his administration was ready to work with a future regional envoy to Myanmar.

‘Motivated downgrade’

ASEAN has faced increasing international pressure to take a tougher stance on Myanmar, having previously been criticized for its ineffectiveness in dealing with leaders accused of violating rights, undermining democracy and intimidating political opponents.

A State Department official told reporters on Friday that it was “entirely appropriate and indeed fully justified” for ASEAN to downgrade Myanmar’s participation in the forthcoming summit.

In its statement, Singapore called on Myanmar to cooperate with ASEAN’s envoy, Brunei’s second foreign minister Erywan Yusof.

Erywan has delayed a long-planned visit to the country in recent weeks and has asked to meet with all parties in Myanmar, including the ousted leader Suu Kyi.

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said Erywan would be welcome in Myanmar this week, but would not be allowed to see Suu Kyi because she is accused of crime.

The Malaysian Foreign Minister said it would be up to the Myanmar junta to decide on an alternate for the summit.

“We have never thought about removing Myanmar from ASEAN, we believe that Myanmar has the same rights (as us),” Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah told reporters, according to Bernama’s state news agency.

“But the junta has not cooperated, so ASEAN must be strong to defend its credibility and integrity,” he added.

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