Myanmar announces it will not attend ASEAN foreign ministers’ meeting
Myanmar will not attend this week’s meetings in Cambodia of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, rejecting an invitation to send an apolitical representative in place of its chief diplomat, his government announced on Monday.
Cambodia, the current ASEAN chair, said earlier this month that members of the regional group failed to reach a consensus at the invitation of Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin, at its Thursday and Friday meetings in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.
Wunna Maung Lwin was appointed foreign minister after the military seized power in Myanmar last year, toppling the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The decision to restrict Myanmar’s participation reflects disagreement over Myanmar’s lack of cooperation in implementing measures agreed by the 10-member group last year to help ease that country’s violent political crisis after the takeover. of power by the army.
The head of Myanmar’s military government, Chief General Min Aung Hlaing, was not invited to last October’s virtual meeting of ASEAN leaders due to the disagreement. The rebuke came shortly after Myanmar refused to let an ASEAN special envoy meet Suu Kyi, who has been in detention since the military took over.
“Despite the efforts made by the ASEAN President and Myanmar to promote cooperation within ASEAN, it is regrettable to see the reversal of the decision taken last year that Myanmar is in principle not in a position to to accept,” Myanmar’s foreign ministry said in a statement Monday evening. . “In this regard, Myanmar’s inability to participate or even appoint a non-political representative…is inevitable as it contradicts the principles and practice of equal representation within ASEAN.” ASEAN was chaired by Brunei when it snubbed Min Aung Hlaing, but under its annual rotation system, Cambodia now leads the group. Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said he felt it was important for Myanmar to attend the upcoming summit.
Hun Sen visited Myanmar in January, becoming the first foreign leader to visit since the military coup. He has repeatedly declared his interest in resolving the standoff between ASEAN and Myanmar. Japan’s foreign minister met with Hun Sen’s son in Tokyo on Monday and agreed to cooperate in dealing with the situation in Myanmar. Hun Manet, who heads the Cambodian army and is Hun Sen’s preferred successor, accompanied his father on his visit to Myanmar.
Japan took a softer line on Myanmar’s military than Western nations that sanctioned generals. But in a sign that attitudes in Japan are mixed, Japanese brewery Kirin Holdings announced on Monday that it had decided to pull out of its Myanmar business and end its joint venture with a military-linked partner.
Cambodia’s Chum Sounry said the lack of consensus on Myanmar’s invitation to this week’s foreign ministers’ meeting was due to “little progress in achieving the ASEAN 5-point consensus”, agreed by all members of the group, including Myanmar.
At a special meeting last April, ASEAN leaders issued a statement expressing a consensus calling for an immediate cessation of violence, dialogue between all parties concerned, mediation by a special envoy of ASEAN, the provision of humanitarian aid through ASEAN channels and a visit to Myanmar by the Special Envoy to meet with all relevant parties.
Myanmar did not reject the consensus but did little to implement it.
Myanmar’s military council also continued its harsh military actions against parts of the country where it faces low-level insurgency, as well as its tireless efforts to prosecute Suu Kyi to remove her from political life.
Suu Kyi was put on trial on Monday for election fraud, the latest in a series of criminal prosecutions by the military-led government in which she has already been sentenced to six years in prison.
The military said it took power due to widespread voter fraud in the 2020 general election, an allegation unsubstantiated by independent election monitors. Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won the election with a landslide victory, while the army-backed party performed poorly.
The military takeover prompted widespread peaceful protests and civil disobedience which security forces suppressed with lethal force. About 1,500 civilians were killed, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners. Some opponents of the military have turned to armed resistance in response.
Suu Kyi, 76, has faced a series of charges since her arrest. Her supporters and human rights groups say the charges against her are baseless.
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