ASEAN begins summit without Myanmar representative
Written by tokyoclub on October 26, 2021
ASEAN leaders kicked off their annual summit meeting on Tuesday without a representative from Myanmar after the group excluded the country’s military leader over the member country’s political turmoil following a coup earlier this year.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations invited a senior Foreign Ministry official as a “nonpolitical representative” instead, but Myanmar’s military authorities balked at the exclusion, hinting they may boycott the summit altogether.
An ASEAN diplomatic source confirmed that no one represented Myanmar at the opening of the summit, which was held via videoconference under Brunei’s chairmanship due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
A photo of the videoconference released by Thailand’s Office of the Prime Minister showed a blank space where a Myanmar representative was supposed to appear while Brunei’s sultan, Hassanal Bolkiah, was making opening remarks.
ASEAN foreign ministers decided earlier not to invite Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, who in February led the coup toppling a civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, due to a lack of progress in implementing an ASEAN peace plan aimed at finding a solution to the country’s political crisis.
Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement late Monday that Myanmar representative’s was denied “equal rights enjoyed by other ASEAN member states,” and asked Brunei to invite at least a ministerial level representative to the summit and related meetings to be held this week.
The extraordinary development for ASEAN at its summit comes as the regional group, led by member countries Indonesia and Malaysia, puts pressure on Myanmar’s junta to cooperate with it in implementing a five-point consensus agreed earlier among ASEAN leaders over the crisis.
The consensus includes sending a special envoy to Myanmar to mediate dialogue between all sides in the country’s political turmoil. But a visit by the envoy, Brunei second foreign minister Erywan Yusof, has not been approved by the military authorities.
Besides the summit involving 10 member countries, related meetings with non-ASEAN countries that are also ASEAN’s major trading partners, such as the United States, China and Japan, will be held virtually over three days through Thursday.
A summit between ASEAN and the United States on Tuesday, and the East Asia Summit on Wednesday are both expected to see U.S. President Joe Biden taking part, marking a departure from the previous four years under President Donald Trump.
Trump, who skipped every East Asia Summit meeting held during his tenure, drew criticism for his perceived lack of interest in Southeast Asia.
ASEAN consists of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.