ASEAN running out of patience . . .
On Friday, foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) decided to exclude Myanmar’s junta chief, Min Aung Hlaing, from its upcoming regional summit in favour of a non-political representative. The ministers noted the lack of progress in implementing a five-point plan agreed to in April to end the conflict in Myanmar. Last week, the ASEAN-appointed envoy to Myanmar abruptly cancelled his visit to the embattled country after the junta refused him access to ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is currently under arrest and facing criminal charges. The junta’s lack of co-operation may have led the regional bloc to exclude Min from the summit, which the Singaporean foreign ministry said was “necessary to uphold ASEAN’s credibility.”
Little time left . . .
With the ASEAN Summit slated for October 26-28, followed immediately by the East Asia Summit with leaders from China, India, Japan, Russia, Australia, and the U.S., ASEAN will soon need to decide who to invite as a non-political representative from Myanmar. Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG), a parallel government composed of former lawmakers and representatives of ethnic minority groups, welcomed ASEAN’s decision to exclude Min Aung Hlaing from the summit and said it was ready to recommend a representative while urging the bloc not to invite any individual affiliated with the military administration. However, who is considered ‘non-political’ remains to be seen, as the junta will be deciding on its alternate representative.
Unprecedented and risky move . . .
Some analysts hailed the exclusion of Myanmar’s junta chief as a turning point in ASEAN’s diplomatic efforts to pressure the military leaders to end the crisis. A military government spokesman, meanwhile, insisted the move went against ASEAN’s principle of consensus. For months, ASEAN has been criticized for being slow to act due to a lack of agreement among its members, with Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore taking a much more assertive stance while others like Cambodia have kept a lower profile. There is a concern that sidelining Myanmar’s military leader could risk diminishing the bloc’s access to and influence over the junta. But many ordinary people around the region have already lost faith in ASEAN’s ability to address violence and human rights abuses in their community.
- Nikkei Asia: Myanmar crisis highlights ASEAN’s identity dilemma
- Reuters: Tradition vs. credibility: Inside the SE Asian meet that snubbed Myanmar
- South China Morning Post: Myanmar junta blames ‘foreign intervention’ for ASEAN summit exclusion