Myanmar is ‘part of the ASEAN family’, Brunei has said, after a summit of the Southeast Asian regional group, which barred Myanmar general Min Aung Hlaing for his failure to implement a reconciliation plan agreed at a previous meeting in April.
The military seized power of Myanmar in February, detaining civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and triggering mass protests and economic chaos.
More than 1,200 people have been killed in the crackdown on the anti-coup movement, and unrest has increased in long-restive border areas despite Min Aung Hlaing’s promise to end violence as part of the so-called ‘Five Point Consensus’ he agreed to with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
Asked about Myanmar’s future rule following the unprecedented snub to the armed forces chief, Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah stressed the country’s continued membership.
“Myanmar is an integral part of the ASEAN family and their membership has not been questioned,” he said. “ASEAN will always be there for Myanmar and we have continued to offer help through the implementation of the five-point consensus.”
The pact also included commitments to start dialogue and facilitate humanitarian aid and mediation efforts by a special ASEAN envoy.
The sultan, who chaired the three-day online summit that ended on Thursday, said the 10-member organised group hoped the generals would work with its envoy to defuse the political crisis and that “Myanmar will return to normalcy, in accordance with the will of its people”.
Speaking at a separate news conference, Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah stressed the no-show this week was Myanmar’s choice, and that it was unclear whether the country would join future meetings.
“That’s the one million dollar question which I cannot answer,” Saifuddin said
This week’s summit was the last with Brunei as chair.
Cambodia now takes the helm of the organisation.
Foreign Minister Prak Sokhonn told Reuters news agency on Thursday that Cambodia would maintain pressure on Myanmar, warning the country was on the brink of civil war.
ASEAN appointed Brunei’s Second Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof as its special Myanmar envoy in August after months of wrangling.
He has yet to visit the country because the military has refused to allow him to meet Aung San Suu Kyi, who is on trial on a number of charges that could see her jailed for decades.
[Think you need to add that the UN says the charges are politically motivated, or other fact that sheds light on the questionability of the charges]
Myanmar joined ASEAN in 1997 under a previous military regime.