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ASEAN and Myanmar junta at loggerheads over summit invite

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Senior General Min Aung Hlaing (Photo: IANS)

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have taken a historic decision to not invite Myanmar coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing for the ASEAN summit.

The decision was taken in an emergency meeting of ASEAN foreign ministers. They have decided to invite a non-political representative from Myanmar—effectively humiliating the top general who led the coup against a newly-elected government in February this year.

The junta said that it was "extremely disappointed" with the ASEAN decision. The Myanmar Foreign Ministry said: "Myanmar is extremely disappointed and strongly objected (to) the outcomes of the emergency foreign ministers meeting, as the discussions and decision on Myanmar's representation issue was done without consensus and was against the objectives of ASEAN".

The reason behind the surprising decision was the anger with the military junta over not making efforts to resolve the crisis that plagues Myanmar.

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ASEAN felt insulted that the general was being adamant about not opening up talks with the pro-democracy forces within Myanmar. The general had also refused the Special Envoy from ASEAN to mediate between the pro-democracy groups and the junta.

Brunei, which is chairing the South-East Asian grouping this year, announced the decision to invite a non-political representative from Myanmar for the summit to be held later this month.

Myanmar, which links South Asia with South-East Asia, had been moving towards a working democracy over the last almost ten years when the military coup upended the democratic process earlier this year.

Over 1,000 people have been killed and thousands arrested by Myanmar security forces following the coup.

Under pressure from the international community, a wary ASEAN tried to intervene in the Myanmar mess to resolve the conflict as anti-coup demonstrators took to streets almost every day. ASEAN released a five-point plan to resolve the impasse in the country.

The five-point plan, formulated in April, was to immediately cease violence, initiate dialogue among all parties for a peaceful solution, mediation to be done by ASEAN envoy, humanitarian assistance to be provided by ASEAN and lastly, a visit by ASEAN special envoy along with a delegation to meet all parties.

However, ASEAN could not do much as the junta did not provide it with the leeway to conduct negotiations and play peace-maker.

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